ST. PETERSBURG — There have been plenty of ups and downs this season for the Rays, but Tuesday night's 11-7 loss to Minnesota was about as down as it could get. Not only did Rays starter Nathan Karns have a three-inning, four-hit, five-run clunker, but they also had two starters leave the game due to injury.
Leftfielder Desmond Jennings left after the third inning with a bruised left knee. And catcher Curt Casali exited after the fifth due to a strained left hamstring — an injury suffered on a home run trot, no less. Both will be re-evaluated today.
"It stinks," Casali said. "It's pretty disappointing."
Which pretty much sums up the night for the Rays (62-63).
Karns struggled from the first batter. He gave up a single to leadoff hitter Byron Buxton. Then with one out and two on, Miguel Sano homered to dead centerfield. Karns has allowed at least one run in the first inning in four straight starts. He has an 8.28 ERA in the first inning this season, highest in the American League.
While the Rays got two runs in the second to cut the lead, the Twins got two more off Karns in the third and led 5-2 when he left after 68 pitches. His three innings tied for his shortest outing this season.
"I felt fine today, but I just didn't have my rhythm," Karns said. "It's one of those games you wish you didn't have to start off a series like this. Our offense did well. It's not easy coming back from a 3-0 deficit."
The Rays did indeed come back. Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the third, John Jaso doubled with one out. One out later, Cabrera walked to put two on. James Loney, who had an RBI single in the first, struck again when he doubled in two runs to make it 5-4. Kevin Kiermaier then singled home Loney, and the score was tied at 5. But as was the theme of the night, that lead didn't last, either.
Brian Dozier hit a two-run homer off Matt Andriese in the fourth inning to give the Twins yet another lead, 7-5. It became 7-6 in the bottom half on a single by Jaso that scored Grady Sizemore, who walked to start the inning. That was as close as the Rays would get.
The Twins increased the lead by three in the fifth on an RBI single by Kurt Suzuki and Eduardo Escobar's two-run double. The Rays added their seventh run in the fifth on Casali's solo homer that landed in the 162 Landing part of leftfield.
The Twins (64-61) hit their third homer of the game in the seventh, a leadoff shot to right-center by Eddie Rosario, that made it 11-7. While Minnesota's pitching was shaky for most of the game, it did not give up a run after the fifth inning.
"It's not the best way to start off this homestand," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Karnsy probably didn't have his best stuff. He wasn't able to overcome that. But one good thing is that our offense was able to come back. They kept plugging away, but it wasn't enough. We weren't able to contain them on the pitching side of it."
Tampa Bay left runners in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings. Former Rays reliever Kevin Jepsen pitched the ninth inning for the Twins and retired the Rays in order.
The Twins have won five straight games and are 3-1 this season against the Rays. The teams combined for 25 hits.