MLB: Escobar, Zobrist homer as Rays beat Twins 7-4
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon feels his team reached an important regular-season milestone.
Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist homered during a three-run seventh inning and the surging Rays improved to a season-high 10 games over .500 by beating the Minnesota Twins 7-4 on Monday night.
“The thing I like is that we’re 10 games over,” Maddon said. “You’ve got to go to 10, then you’ve got to go to 15, etc., etc. The major takeaway from tonight is the fact that we’re 10 games over. We’re playing, probably, our best baseball right now.”
Escobar had a leadoff tiebreaking homer in the seventh off Samuel Deduno (4-4), who departed after Desmond Jennings followed with a triple. Caleb Thielbar entered and got one out before Zobrist gave Tampa Bay a 6-3 lead with a two-run shot.
“We’re always ready to jump on an opportunity,” Tampa Bay right fielder Wil Myers said. “That just shows what kind of team we are, and capable of those kind of things. I think that’s big going down the stretch.”
Alex Torres (3-0) pitched a perfect seventh for the Rays, who have won nine of 10. Escobar also had a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
“We’ve been playing well,” Maddon said. “Pitching well, catching the ball on defense and not expanding our strike zone. I just like the fact that we’re showing kind of a comeback mentality right now.”
Fernando Rodney got the final two outs to pick up his 20th save after an RBI single by Pedro Florimon off Jamey Wright.
Justin Morneau homered for the Twins, who have lost eight of nine. Deduno gave up five runs and 10 hits over six-plus innings. Thielbar had not allowed a run in his first 17 appearances during his rookie season before Zobrist’s homer.
After Brian Dozier hit a third-inning RBI double, the Twins took a 3-2 lead in the fourth when Morneau had a solo homer and Chris Parmelee added a sacrifice fly off Roberto Hernandez.
Minnesota went 4 for 4 with the sac fly during the fourth, but had Oswaldo Arcia thrown out trying to advance to second after hitting a single and Aaron Hicks picked off at first by Rays catcher Jose Molina.
“Guys were trying, but to the pickoff at first base with Hicksy, and Arcia trying to go to second base, silly stuff like that will end up shooting you in the end, and it did,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Morneau tied Bob Allison for fourth place on the Twins’ career list with 211 homers.
Minnesota loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, but failed to score when Trevor Plouffe flew out. The Twins went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position through six innings.
Roberto Hernandez allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings. The right-hander struck out three, walked three and hit a batter.
Tampa Bay tied it at 3 in the fifth on Evan Longoria’s run-scoring single.
Luke Scott put the Rays up 1-0 on a first-inning homer. Molina made it 2-0 with an RBI single in the second.
Deduno got hit in the leg by James Loney’s hard-hit infield single during the second, but stayed in the game.
One day after having his career-best 16-game hitting streak ended, Loney had two hits.
NOTES: Maddon remains hopeful that 12-game winner Matt Moore will be added as a replacement player to the AL All-Star team. ... Hicks had a career-high four hits. ... Rays RHP Alex Cobb, struck in the right ear by a liner on June 15, threw off a mound for the second time and didn’t rule out pitching in games in late July or early August. ... Twins RHP PJ Walters accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Rochester. RHP Cole De Vries (sprained right elbow) has been placed on the DL by Rochester. ... Minnesota RHP Rich Harden (shoulder) could throwing batting practice this week. ... Twins RHP Nick Blackburn (wrist) gave up two runs and six hits over five innings in his third outing with the Gulf Coast League Twins.