Tampa Bay right-hander Chris Archer can inch the streaking Rays closer to the top of the American League East on Tuesday night when they host the Minnesota Twins in the second contest of a four-game series at Tropicana Field.
The Rays won their fifth in a row and 50th game of the season in Monday's opener, when home runs by Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted them to a 7-4 triumph.
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 took over sole possession of second place in the AL East and now trail the front-running Boston Red Sox by 3 1/2 games.
Tampa Bay is a game ahead of the third-place Baltimore Orioles and 1 1/2 up on the fourth-place New York Yankees.
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 and is fourth in the AL Central, 11 games behind Detroit.
"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 (wins)."
Archer, who has never faced the Twins, is 1-0 with a pair of no-decisions since dropping consecutive verdicts to the Red Sox on June 12 and 18.
He defeated the Yankees, 3-1, with six innings of one-run ball on June 23, and has allowed five runs on seven hits in 11 innings while Tampa Bay has beaten Detroit and Houston in his last two outings.
The Rays are 4-3 in the seven games he's pitched this season.
Archer is 1-1 at home this season and 2-1 in five career starts at Tropicana Field.
Minnesota sends 24-year-old righty Kyle Gibson to the mound for the third time in his brief big-league career.
The product of the University of Missouri was the 22nd overall pick in the 2009 draft and was 11-6 in the minors in 2010, 3-8 in 2011 and 0-2 in 2012 before opening this season at Triple-A Rochester of the International League.
He went 7-5 in 15 starts while posting a 3.01 earned run average before finally arriving in Minnesota, where he defeated Kansas City, 6-2, in his big- league debut on June 29.
One subsequent start yielded a 9-5 loss to the Yankees after he was ripped for 11 hits and eight runs in 5 1/3 innings.
The Rays won five of six games with the Twins in 2012 and have won the season series in each of the last three years. The teams split evenly in 2008 and 2009, and Minnesota hasn't won a season series with Tampa Bay since 2006.