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Twins held to four hits in loss to Tampa Bay

(Associated Press) Sam Fuld, left, of the Tampa Bay Rays dives back safely to first base ahead of the throw to Twins first baseman Justin Morneau during the first inning Friday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

By Fred Goodall, AP Baseball Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Wade Davis pitched seven strong innings and Johnny Damon and Kelly Shoppach drove in two runs apiece, leading the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.

Davis (1-2) limited the defending AL Central champions to three singles and Danny Valencia's fifth-inning RBI double to help the Rays to their fourth straight win and fifth in seven games following an 0-6 start. Minnesota has dropped three in a row and five of its last six.

A night after beating the Twins with a 10th inning homer, the 37-year-old Damon delivered a two-run single off Nick Blackburn (1-2) to erase a 1-0 deficit in the sixth. Shoppach finished off the Minnesota starter with a two-run, seventh-inning homer for his first RBIs of the season.

Sam Fuld and Matt Joyce each had three hits for the Rays, who scored 37 runs in their five wins compared to 12 in eight losses. Damon has hit safely in seven straight games after going 1-for-15 while the Rays were losing five straight home games to begin the season.

With one run in and a runner on first, Kyle Farnsworth came out of the bullpen to get the final out and earn his third save in as many opportunities for Tampa Bay. The run, charged to reliever Cesar Ramos, scored on shortstop Reid Brignac's throwing error.

Blackburn faded quickly after a promising first five innings for the Twins, playing their first game since three-time AL batting champion Joe Mauer was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of leg weakness. Manager Ron Gardenhire said earlier Friday that the catcher also has a viral infection, which the club believes has contributed to Mauer's body soreness.

For the second straight night, the Twins faltered after taking a lead. Carl Pavano worked eight scoreless innings in Thursday's series opener only to be denied the victory when closer Joe Nathan blew his first save in four opportunities this season by giving up a two-run double to Joyce in the ninth.

The Rays then won it in the 10th, overcoming a 3-2 deficit on Damon's two-run homer off Matt Capps.

The defending AL East champions didn't need to rally late this time.

Damon's two-run single put the Rays ahead and Upton's RBI double later in the sixth hiked the lead to 3-1 against Blackburn, who narrowly escaped being hit by a line drive hit by Joyce during the inning. The ball appeared to deflect off the pitcher's glove and rolled to shortstop for an infield single.

Shoppach put it out of reach with a first-pitch, two-run homer off Blackburn, who allowed five runs and 10 hits in six-plus innings.

NOTES: Minnesota DH Jim Thome entered the game 2-for-2 with two homers lifetime against Davis. The slugger hit a fly ball to the warning track in center field in his first at-bat and finished 0 for 2 with a walk against the Rays' starter. He scored the Twins' first run when he drew the walk before Valencia's RBI double. ... Shoppach has three homers in 15 career at bats against Blackburn.