MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — It wasn’t always pretty, but considering the position they’ve put themselves in this year, the Tampa Bay Rays can’t be too picky.
James Loney had two hits and two RBIs and Chris Archer won consecutive decisions for the first time this season as the Rays won their fifth straight with a 5-3 victory against the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.
At one point this season it appeared the Rays might have dug too deep a hole to recover. On June 10 they were 24-42, but since that low-water mark they’ve gone 23-11 and pulled to within eight games of first place in the AL East.
”We’re just trying to concentrate on the moment and not thinking that far ahead,” Loney said. ”And we’re not thinking about what we did yesterday.”
The Rays, who went on an 11-4 tear going into the All-Star break, matched their longest winning streak of the season against the punchless Twins, who scored six runs in the three-game series.
But they didn’t make it easy on themselves Sunday. They committed two errors, both leading to Minnesota runs. They also gave the Twins a run on a wild pitch. And on offense, they stranded 12 runners, including nine in scoring position.
”We had so many opportunities to score many more runs and when you keep not doing that you get kind of concerned,” manager Joe Maddon said. ”When you leave that many guys in scoring position you know it’s going to bite you at some point.”
Archer (6-5) pitched 6 1-3 innings, giving up one earned run on six hits while walking two and striking out four. Four relievers combined to get the last eight outs, with rookie, Kauai’s Kirby Yates closing out the game for his first career save.
Yates had to bail out Grant Balfour, who walked two batters with one out in the ninth. The first batter he faced was Brian Dozier, who took part in the home run derby at Target Field last Monday. But with the winning run at the plate, Yates got Dozier on a grounder to third and retired Eduardo Nunez on a pop out.
”Kirby came in, did a nice job against Dozier who can definitely put the ball in the seats, and same thing with Nunez. I thought he was outstanding,” said Maddon, who noted that veteran set-up man Joel Peralta was unavailable due to an illness. But he added that getting his young relievers some experience in high-leverage spots is part of his master plan.
”We have to grow our bullpen to permit people to not have to pitch so often,” Maddon said. ”We’ve got to get participation from 25 players, including some who are still in Triple-A, if we’re going to pull this off.”
Kevin Correia (5-12) took over the major league lead in losses, allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks in four innings for Minnesota. The veteran right-hander gave up two runs in the first and single runs in each of the next two innings.
In his previous seven starts, Correia was 3-4 but had a sparkling 2.30 ERA in 43 innings pitched.
Instead, Correia got off to a shaky start on Sunday and never recovered. Desmond Jennings led off the game with a double, and Correia walked the next two batters to load the bases. Loney delivered two runs with a sharp single to give the Rays a lead.
”You all saw it, 90 pitches in four innings and it was a hard 90, not an easy 90,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Correia’s outing. ”He labored through it and kept the damage to a minimum. But he labored through it.”
Notes: Evan Longoria’s second double of the game gave him 216 in his career, passing Carl Crawford for the most in franchise history. He also tied Crawford for the franchise lead with 592 career RBIs. . Twins 1B Joe Mauer swung a bat on Sunday for the first time since he went on the 15-day DL on July 2 with a strained right oblique. Twins GM Terry Ryan said that Mauer didn’t face pitching or hit off a tee, but the ”dry swings” were a sign that ”things are going in the right direction.” … Ryan also said he would wait until Monday to announce the Twins’ starting pitcher for Tuesday’s game against Cleveland. RHP Samuel Deduno, who has made eight starts this season for the Twins, pitched three innings of relief on Sunday and is not a candidate to start on Tuesday.