Big lead becomes a scramble for Twins in victory over Rays
On Friday, the Twins scored eight runs over the first three innings and led by seven runs. But instead of cruising to a victory, they battled into the late innings as starter Jake Odorizzi and the Twins bullpen threatened to give the lead back.
The Twins were attempting to win their third game in a row. And, most noticeably, they eyed their eighth victory in their past nine games which would cancel out the mauling by Lake Michigan a few weeks ago when they went 1-8 against the White Sox, Cubs and Brewers.
Eventually, the Twins won 11-8.
They have responded to some adversity. But more is needed. They have two games left until the All-Star break, with a stated goal of finishing strong, then using that as a launching point once games resume.
Twins hitters were batting .297 and generating 5.5 runs off offense during the homestand, then placed Rays righthander Nathan Eovaldi in their cross hairs on Friday.
They collected six hits in the first inning, including a triple by Jorge Polanco, to take a 4-0 lead. They made Eovaldi throw 30 pitches. It was the second straight night a Tampa Bay pitcher had thrown 30 pitches in the opening inning, a good strategy by the Twins.
The Rays scored a run in the third, but the Twins answered with more bludgeoning in the bottom of the inning. Jake Cave drove in Polanco with a double to left. Two batters later, Joe Mauer batted with two on and drilled a center cut fastball 427 feet to straightaway center for his third homer of the year and an 8-1 Twins lead.
It was set up for righthander Odorizzi to sail against his former team while winning his fifth game of the season. But he gave up a run in the fourth then escaped that inning with the bases loaded. That should have been a warning sign of what was coming.
Because in the fifth, he gave up a three-run home run to Jake Bauers then plunked Joey Wendle with a pitch before leaving the game.
Odorizzi won his last start with six shutout innings against Baltimore. Before that, he had gone 10 starts without a decision. The Twins hoped that the victory over the Orioles would be the spark that Odorizzi needed. Instead, he once again left too many pitches over the plate and paid the price for it. Friday marked the fifth time this season that Odorizzi failed to pitch at least five innings, something the Twins didnt expect when they dealt for him during the offseason.
Wendle scored on a double by C.J. Cron as the Rays closed to within 8-6. Then Duffys single off Taylor Rogers made it 8-7, and all the Twins fine work at the plate was nearly undone. Matt Belisle had to come in and strike out Wilson Ramos to strand a runner in the sixth.
The Twins offense got going again in the bottom of the inning. Eduardo Escobar singled to center to drive in Brian Dozier, and Robbie Grossman doubled to left to score Escobar to give the Twins a 10-7 lead.
It was up to the bullpen to hold back the Rays. The Twins tacked on another run when Cave tripled and Mauer drove him in with a sacrifice fly.
Fernando Rodney came in for the ninth in a non-save situation, and gave up a home run to Joey Wendle before ending the game..