Kelly Johnson said that as good as the Rays pitching staff has been lately, scoring three runs is "sometimes like scoring 10."
"They've been beyond awesome," Johnson said.
"Unbelievable," Matt Joyce said.
Rookie right-hander Chris Archer continued the rotation's roll Tuesday night with another strong six-inning start in a 4-1 win over the Twins in front of 12,777 at Tropicana Field. A big reason why the Rays (51-40) have won six straight, the longest active streak in the majors, and 10 of their past 11 is their starters, who have allowed three earned runs or fewer in their past 11 games.
"Since (David Price) came back, it looks like a whole different staff," Archer said of the ace who returned last week after a seven-week stint on the disabled list. "All of us have been above average. I think he's definitely our anchor, and it's shown."
But what might have been the most encouraging sign was who got the biggest hits in a four-run fourth. With the bases loaded and two outs, Joyce smacked the first pitch from Twins rookie Kyle Gibson into center for a two-run single. It gave Tampa Bay the lead and Joyce his first RBIs since June 15, snapping a span of 71 plate appearances and 20 games that was the second-longest drought of his career.
"It's hard not to think about it," Joyce said. "It's hard not to get frustrated in those situations where you hit the ball hard, line drive at somebody and you're like, 'Man, give me a break here.' But maybe that'll get the ball rolling."
The Rays' swarming offense got rolling in the fourth with Desmond Jennings and Luke Scott leading off with back-to-back walks. After Ben Zobrist flied out and Evan Longoria struck out, James Loney extended the rally, battling back from 0-and-2 to get a walk and load the bases.
Joyce was expecting Gibson to throw a two-seamer over the plate, noting he wanted to be more aggressive. "It just worked out for me," he said.
Johnson, getting the start as manager Joe Maddon gave rookie Wil Myers the night off, then delivered a two-run double to left-center. He also had a leaping catch against the wall in left in the first inning to rob Joe Mauer of extra bases.
"I was playing (so deep), I pretty much could have scratched the paint off the wall," Johnson said. "Glad I got that one."
So was Archer (3-3), who credited the defense for his efficiency, taking just 84 pitches to complete six innings. He showed command and calmness, as it was the first outing of his career in which he didn't issue a walk.
"It felt good to have good stuff and be able to harness it," he said.
If Archer was upset at being pulled after six, he harnessed it postgame, praising the bullpen, including rookie Alex Torres and Fernando Rodney, who picked up his 12th straight save after an interesting ninth. Archer did snap the Rays' nine-game errorless streak with an errant pickoff throw in the sixth, the team's only blemish in a strong all-around effort.
"I just think that right now," Maddon said, "we're starting to play up to our capabilities."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]