It's been a long week for the Tampa Bay Rays. Losers of five straight, starting with that back-breaking one-hit loss to the Yankees on Sunday at the Trop, the Rays hoped a dreary day in Minneapolis would be the end of their equally dreary skid.
Odorizzi Looks to Bounce Back
Taking the hill for Tampa Bay as the storm clouds loomed over Target Field was Jake Odorizzi, the victim of that loss to New York in which he spun seven, one-hit innings, only to lose after giving up a two-run home run to Starlin Castro. Jake has arguably been the Rays best starter through the first two months of the season, and certainly the most consistent.
Friday night wasn't Odorizzi's most efficient outing, needing 120 pitches to last through six innings. Those 120 pitches did lead to six strikeouts on the night, but also three walks and five hits. Sometimes, the starter's job has to be to mitigate situations when you give up baserunners and keep the ball in the yard and, in that regard, he did his job. While he may not have had his best stuff, it was enough to turn it over to the bullpen in a 2-2 tie.
Longo Kicks it Off
Ricky Nolasco doesn't like to face the Tampa Bay Rays. He was 3-5 in his career entering the game Friday night, with an ERA of 7.33. After getting both Brandon Guyer and Brad Miller to fly out in short order to start the first inning, it looked like the exact start Nolasco wanted.
Then Evan Longoria stepped in.
On a 1-1 count, Nolasco served up a 92MPH fastball on the high, outside corner to Longo, who's been locked in of late. Evan got every piece of it, taking it on a rope to straight-away centerfield and over the head of Byron Buxton for a solo home run and a 1-0 Rays lead.
In the bottom half of the third inning, the Twins got themselves on the scoreboard.
Buxton hit a triple to the deepest part of left-centerfield and, after a pop out by Eduardo Nunez and a walk by Joe Mauer, scored a fielder's choice off the bat of Brian Dozier, advancing Mauer to second.
Twins' third baseman Trevor Plouffe immediately followed that with a bloop single to shallow right, bringing Mauer in to score.
Having seen enough of the Twin Cities' lineup for the inning, Odorizzi set Robbie Grossman down looking to end the threat.
Colome' Makes it Interesting
The Rays took the lead back on an RBI single by Brad Miller in the top of eighth, after Erasmo Ramirez worked a scoreless bottom half of the seventh. Xavier Cedeno came on to do his job, getting fellow lefty Mauer to fly out to center, before giving way to Rays' closer Alex Colome'.
Looking to secure the five-out save, Colome' started strong, striking out Dozier on a beautiful slider, two down in the home half.
Trevor Plouffe, however, wouldn't go down so easily. Plouffe tagged a pitch down the left field line, just fair and off of the corner field board for a double. Plouffe would be lifted for Eduardo Escobar as a pinch runner, who advanced to third on a Colome' wild pitch. Back-to-back walks to Grossman and Byung-ho Park loaded the bases for Max Kepler.
Colome' saved his best sliders for Kepler. The Twins' right fielder fell victim to back-to-back sweeping sliders, both swinging strikes, getting the Rays out of the jam.
LoMo Adds Some Insurance
After the struggles Colome' faced in the eighth, and would again in the ninth, Logan Morrison, thankfully, added an insurance run in the top of ninth inning.
On a 2-2 count, Morrison, leading off the inning for Tampa Bay, got a two-seam fastball over the outer half of the plate and put a charge into it, sending it over the left-centerfield fence, and showing off his opposite field power and keeping his recent hot streak intact.
Colome' Locks it Down
It wasn't pretty, but Colome' earned the save and secured the much-needed win for the Rays.
After leading off the inning by plunking Kurt Suzuki, and allowing a one-out single to Eduardo Nunez, the Rays' closer found himself in trouble again. After entering the inning only having to face the eight, nine, and one spots in the lineup, Colome' had to face Mauer and Brian Dozier yet again.
Both hitters made solid contact off of Colome' but each lined out to perfectly placed Rays' outfielders to end the game and, mercifully, end the Rays' losing streak.