St. Petersburg, FL – Home runs by Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted the Tampa Bay Rays to a 7-4 win over the Minnesota Twins, in the opener of a four-game series at Tropicana Field.
With Minnesota starter Samuel Deduno (4-4) pitching, Escobar clubbed a 1-0 changeup to left to give the Rays a 4-3 edge. Following a triple by Desmond Jennings, Caleb Thielbar came in relief. He struck out Luke Scott, but gave up a two-run shot to left from Zobrist.
"That just kind of shows what team you are. We're capable of those kinds of things and it's big going down the stretch," Rays outfielder Wil Myers said.
Alex Torres (3-0) was perfect in the seventh to pick up the win and Fernando Rodney got the final two outs of the ninth to notch his 20th save.
Roberto Hernandez allowed eight hits and three runs over the first six innings for the Rays, who have won five straight and nine of their last 10 games.
Aaron Hicks went 4-for-4 and fell a homer shy of the cycle, as the Twins lost for the eighth time in nine games. Justin Morneau added a solo homer for Minnesota, which has lost six in a row to the Rays.
"I'm not really worried about what my batting average is right now," said Hicks, who is struggling at .205 for the season. "I'm worried about getting W's."
Tampa Bay scored a run in each of the first two innings. Scott homered with one out in the first while Jose Molina scored Myers with a single to right in the second.
The Twins got on the board in the third. Hicks hit a double and Brian Dozier brought him home with a double to left two batters later.
They took the lead in the fourth. Morneau's smash to right tied the game. Trevor Plouffe and Oswaldo Arcia hit back-to-back singles, but Arcia was thrown out at second attempting to advance. Chris Parmelee then plated Plouffe with a sacrifice fly to right.
Minnesota had an opportunity to extend its lead in the fifth. Pedro Florimon singled and stole second. Joe Mauer drew a one-out walk and Morneau was intentionally walked with two outs. However, Plouffe flew out to right to end the frame.
Jennings walked to begin the home fifth and scored on a two-out single up the middle by Evan Longoria to tie the game.
The Twins had another chance to score in the sixth after Hicks delivered a two-out triple to right, but Florimon squandered it by striking out.
Tampa Bay added one more run in the eighth. Ryan Pressly walked Myers to start the inning and Molina's single to right put runners at the corners. Escobar then hit a sacrifice fly to right.
Jamey Wright came out for the Rays in the ninth. He gave up a one-out double to Hicks followed by an RBI single to center by Florimon. Rodney replaced Wright and retired Dozier and Mauer to end the game.
Deduno allowed 10 hits and five runs over six innings ... Morneau has 211 home runs, tying Bob Allison for fourth in franchise history ... Thielbar came into the game having not allowed a run in 17 games, a Twins record for most consecutive appearances without a run allowed to start an MLB career ... Molina is hitting .378 against Minnesota, highest of any active player ... The Rays are 57-60 all-time against the Twins, but are 30-26 at Tropicana Field.