MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays broke out the long underwear, the ski caps and masks, the gloves, the heavy jackets and, of course, Joe Maddon's favorite, the Elmer Fudd hat, to combat the dampness, the bone-chilling cold and the snow — yes, the snow — that fell during Wednesday's game at Target Field.
But their hot bats provided all the warmth they needed as they opened the game with five consecutive hits and rode four first-inning runs to an 8-2 win over the Twins that pushed them above .500 for the first time.
"That was kind of nasty," Maddon said. "But it felt a lot better after the first inning."
First-pitch temperature was 40 degrees accompanied by 17 mph winds, and it dropped into the 30s during the game. The Twins added to the, um, atmosphere by playing Christmas music between some innings.
Wade Davis, a Florida native pitching in short sleeves nonetheless, worked into the seventh for his third straight victory. Sam Fuld was on base four times. Ben Zobrist knocked in three runs and Johnny Damon two. Seven different Rays crossed the plate. Drawing nine walks helped, too.
Maddon compared the conditions to their miserable experience in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series in Philadelphia; not as wet but definitely colder.
"Just a miserable night except that we played well," he said. "We played like it was 75 and sunny."
With Monday off and Tuesday's game rained out, the Rays were eager to get back on the field. And with good reason. After losing their first six games and standing 1-8 on April 10, they have been the best team in the majors with an 11-3 mark that improved them to 12-11.
Maddon said he was struck during batting practice by how well the Rays were hitting, enough to go up to hitting coach Derek Shelton and ask what was going on.
"It was just like, 'Am I seeing this right?' And then we carried it right into the game," he said.
The combination of the Rays swinging well and Twins starter Francisco Liriano pitching poorly decided the game early.
Fuld and Damon were again the catalysts as they have been through the resurgent run. Fuld doubled off the facing of the rightfield porch, and Damon knocked him in with a single, extending his hit streak to 14 games. After B.J. Upton doubled to left, Zobrist tripled to deep right, scoring two, his third straight multi-RBI game. Sean Rodriguez followed with a single to center that made it 4-0 just 18 pitches into the game.
"That definitely helped," Zobrist said. "Our bats were hot even though we weren't."
The Rays added three in the fourth on one hit, and four consecutive walks. Dan Johnson, the Minnesota native who admitted it was cold even by his standards, started it with a single to center. Then the Rays drew the four free passes — two off Liriano, two from Eric Hacker — to produce two runs, and Zobrist's sac fly made it 7-1.
Davis appreciated the hot hitting as well as he won his third consecutive start, allowing two runs on seven hits over 62/3 innings. It was the first time pitching in snow for the Lake Wales native, but he said he stuck with the short sleeves because he isn't comfortable with anything on his arms.
"Got to grind it out," he said.
It was that kind of a night.