The Rays escaped the Twins to complete a three-game sweep in Minnesota winning by a score of 7-3, despite a sloppy game defensively and numerous blown opportunities.
Rookie Scott Diamond, who's enjoying a terrific season while leading a struggling Minnesota pitching staff, took the mound against the Rays this afternoon. He struggled early, as the Rays got to him for a pair of runs in the first two innings.
Desmond Jennings lead off the game with a line-drive homer to left field.
Tampa's bats went back to work in the second, as Jeff Keppinger homered to extend the Rays' lead to two.
The Twins responded, however, in the bottom half of the inning. Following an error by Sean Rodriguez—who got the start at shortstop after three straight starts by Ben Zobrist at the position—red-hot Justin Morneau blasted a game-tying two-run blast over the right-field fence.
Minnesota's next biggest bat—Joe Mauer—gave the Twins their first lead of the series in the third when he drove in a run with an RBI single.
The Rays tied the game up at three in the top of the fifth courtesy of back-to-back doubles by Ryan Roberts and Sean Rodriguez.
The score would remain 3-3 for a while, as both teams failed to knock in a single run despite many chances to score. James Shields found himself in jam after jam later in his quality outing, but managed to get out of them consistently.
After seven strong innings of work Shields was replaced by Joel Peralta, who immediately found himself in a jam of his own in the eighth against the meat of the Minnesota lineup. Peralta managed to keep the game tied, and was followed by Kyle Farnsworth in the ninth who did the same.
Meanwhile the Rays' offense was struggling to score late in the game as well, but would finally break through in a big way in extra innings.
The rally started when shortstop Brian Dozier made a huge mental error. With the bases loaded and one out Keppinger chopped a grounder to Dozier who had a pretty clear play at home to get the lead runner on a force, but did not even turn his head to look in that direction. Instead he simply fired to first like it was a routine play without regarding any of the circumstances on the diamond.
This gave the Rays a 4-3 lead, but it would just be the beginning of the onslaught. After the bases were loaded again with two outs, Roberts came through with a huge two-run single to extend the Rays' lead to three. Matt Joyce—who entered the game as a pinch-hitter—smacked an RBI double a few pitches later to make it a 7-3 ballgame.
J.P. Howell entered the game in the bottom half of the inning, and allowed two baserunners to reach while recording two outs. Fernando Rodney then came in to clean up the small mess and record the last out to notch his 36th save of the season, capping another fantastic performance by the Rays' bullpen.
The Rays improve to 10 games over .500 (62-52) and are now just five games back of the Yankees in the division. Today's win also puts them alone in first place in the AL Wild Card!
Notable Stat Lines:
- J. Shields: 5 H, 3 R (2 ER), 1 BB, 2 K through 7.0 IP.
- D. Jennings: 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB, SB
- B. Zobrist: 2-4, E9
- J. Keppinger: 2-5, HR, R, 2 RBI, E5
- R. Roberts: 3-4, R, 2 RBI, BB
- S. Rodriguez: 1-3, RBI, E6
Rays News and Notes:
- Rays committed three errors in today's game, which snaps their 10-game errorless streak.
- The Rays look to extend their win streak tomorrow night as they travel out west to take on Seattle for a three-game series. Alex Cobb (6-8, 4.32) will square off against Blake Beavan (7-6, 5.12); first pitch at 10:10 ET.