Rays beat Twins 4-1, win sixth straight
Rigthander Jeremy Hellickson said the Rays offense carried them for the first couple of months of the season, but was only a matter of time before the pitchers found their groove.
Now, Hellickson said he can't remember the last time a starter had a bad outing.
The latest in the Rays roll was rookie Chris Archer, who threw six strong innings Tuesday in the 4-1 win over the Twins in front of 12,777 at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay has won six straight, and 13 of its last 16 games, having gone from last-place in the American League East to second, and two-games ahead of the Orioles for the second wild card spot. A key to that stretch has been the Rays pitching, which has allowed just 33 runs in the last 15 games.
Closer Fernando Rodney made this one interesting in the ninth, giving up back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before striking out the side to seal the victory.
The Rays (51-40) were shut down the first three innings by Twins rookie righthander Kyle Gibson until breaking through in a four-run fourth. Manager Joe Maddon said Desmond Jennings and Luke Scott have hit well recently because of a more organized strike zone, and the two led off with back-to-back walks. After a Ben Zobrist flyout and Evan Longoria strikeout, James Loney had a great at-bat, battling back from an 0-2 count to walk to load the bases.
Matt Joyce came up and swung at the first pitch he saw, ripping it into centerfield for a two-run single. It was his first RBIs since June 15, snapping a span of 72 plate appearances without one and a drought of 20 games. Kelly Johnson, in the lineup as Wil Myers got the day off, then delivered a two-run double to left-center, making it 4-0.
That was enough for Archer, who continued to show his improved command, and calmness. The Twins hit him hard at times, including Joe Mauer, who had a first-inning double, and had another one taken away in the third on a leaping grab against the leftfield wall by Johnson.
But when Archer hit Brian Dozier and fell behind Mauer 2-0 in the sixth, he settled down, getting Mauer to fly out to left. His main mistake was an errant pickoff throw to first, which snapped the Rays nine-game errorless streak and allowed Dozier to advance to third (later scoring on a sacrifice fly).
Archer retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced, and was more efficient, averaging 14 pitches per innings. But he was pulled after six innings, and just 84 pitches, and relieved by Alex Torres, who made his first back-to-back appearance out of the bullpen. Torres threw a perfect seventh, striking out two, with Jake McGee and Rodney closing it out.