Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winning streak! Though honestly, it didn't look that way from how this one started. The Twins had runners in scoring position against Matt Andriese all day, as Matty Ace pitched into and out of trouble. It was remarkable that he made it through five, and is a true credit to his tenacity that he would have gone back out for the sixth if not for a rain delay.
Twins run the Rays into the ground
Edwin Nunez started things off for the Twins in the first inning with a soft single to center, then stole second easily. He then advanced to third on an opposite field single by Joe Mauer, and scored on a swinging bunt by Brian Dozier. Thankfully, Andriese limited the damage and retired the side from there.
After his only clean inning in the second, Andriese was back in a jam in the third, though this one was not of his making. Brad Miller was unable to cleanly field Byron Buxton's sharp grounder. Miller did recover nicely and made a strong throw to first, but not in time to get the speedy Buxton. Buxton then -- you guessed it -- easily stole second, despite numerous pickoff attempts by Andriese. Nunez followed with a bunt single to put runners on first and third. Mauer then scored Buxton on a sac fly to left, giving the Twins their second run of the game. It was a ball where there was again some confusion by the outfielders as Dickerson and Mahtook nearly collided. In the end, the mix up didn't matter, as Buxton would have scored easily regardless. But this lack of communication is an ongoing issue that the Rays simply must address.
The Twins got their third run of the game and second of the inning when -- after a Nunez steal (are you kidding me?) -- Brian Dozier dumped a double into right.
Meanwhile, Ervin Santana cruised the first time through the order, mixing his pitches and locating well. His only mistake was a fastball up and over the middle of the plate to Hank Conger. Hank took out some of his frustration on that poor baseball and hammered it deep to right.
Through three, the Rays trailed 3-1, and this one looked like it might get out of hand.
Abruptly, Santana's command abandoned him the second time through the order. In the fourth, after Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce singles, Steven Souza Jr. came to the plate with two out. On a 2-2 count, Santana missed middle down with a slider. Souza did not miss, sending it into the upper deck and giving the Rays a 4-3 lead.
Things still didn't go easy for Andriese. After retiring Byung Ho Park to lead off the fourth, he surrendered three straight singles to load the bases. But in what might have been the most clutch play of the game, Andriese induced the pesky Eduardo Nunez to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.
In the fifth, Evan Longoria hit a man-sized homer into the upper deck in left. 5-3 good guys.
The Twins and Rays both threatened in the bottom of the fifth and top of the sixth respectively, with the Rays surviving a bunt single and a Longoria throwing error, and Santana working out of a first and third one out jam thanks to a Hank Conger double play grounder.
Then it rained for an hour, ending Matty Ace's night. Andriese would be charged with three runs (two earned) on eight hits, striking out five and walking no one.
The rain did little to cool off the Rays' bats, however.
In the seventh, with Brad Miller on second after a double to right-center, Logan Morrison sent a hanging breaking ball out to straight away center for the fourth Ray's homer of the day.
The B-team bullpen almost finished the job, with Enny Romero working a clean sixth and seventh and Tyler Sturdevant battling through a scoreless eighth and two outs into ninth. Romero especially was sharp, working two no-hit innings and striking out three. His breaking ball was especially nasty. But in the ninth, a single by Buxton and a walk to Nunez forced Cash's hand.
In came Alex Colome, who gave up an 0-2 opposite field single to Joe Mauer, plating Buxton and bringing the tying run to the plate in Brian Dozier. Colome rode the adrenaline and fanned Dozier on four pitches, ending the threat and locking down his 14th save.
- Souza made a great play in the eighth to nail Trevor Plouffe at second. With the shift on, Plouffe hit a squib shot up the first base line for what looked like a sure double. But a hustling Souza came from out of nowhere to field the ball along the stands and delivered a strong throw to Tim Beckham to nab Plouffe.
- Souza also made a terrific/terrible play on the bases in the sixth. He was caught well off the first base bag on his secondary lead on perhaps an aborted steal attempt. But when Centeno made the throw behind him to execute the pickoff, Souza broke for second instead and made it rather easily.
- Hank Conger had a rare right-handed hit in the ninth, doubling high off the wall in right center.
- The Rays go for the series win today in the wrap up game of this four-game set today at 2:10.