Chris Archer, Yunel Escobar give Rays win against Twins

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays didn’t lose their edge during their recent slide. They’re still strategizing with a World Series in mind.

Saving Chris Archer’s right arm is one example, and he was so good on Friday night there was no concern of overexertion.

Archer spun six scoreless innings, and the Rays added to their slim wild-card lead by beating the Minnesota Twins 3-0.

“There was no moment that really showed

up. He pretty much had his way,” said manager Joe Maddon, who was more

than satisfied with 87 pitches by the rookie. “I just want to really eye

him up, because our intent is to play well into October, and I want to

make sure that he’s well.”

The Rays hold the second wild-card spot

with four teams still in striking range. They nudged their advantage to 1

games over Cleveland, due to a loss by New York that pushed the Yankees

to two games back. Baltimore (2 games behind) and Kansas City (3) are

lurking, too.

Archer (9-7) scattered three singles and

struck out seven without a walk, following a pair of rough outings to

start September. In his 20th start, he lowered his ERA to 3.03.

“I still feel mentally and physically

there. But I have an understanding of the big picture and maybe saving a

couple extra innings, just in case if we do make that magical playoff

run,” Archer said.

Yunel Escobar had an RBI double among

his three hits for the Rays, and Desmond Jennings and James Loney drove

in runs with singles against Kevin Correia (9-12), whose defense behind

him was less than ideal.

“We need to make the plays that should be made. We’re not good enough to make up for that right now,” Correia said.

After losing 13 of 17 games, the Rays

picked up an important victory on Thursday night over AL East-leading

Boston on a tiebreaking eighth-inning double by rookie standout Wil

Myers.

The Rays started their weekend reprieve

against the floundering Twins before 11 straight games against

wild-card competitors Texas, the Orioles and Yankees. Tampa Bay has won

10 straight games against the Twins, including five this year. The

Twins, who lost 15 of their last 18 home games, struck out 11 times.

“I know hitting’s not easy. I’ve been

there. But you have to defend the plate. You have to put the ball in

play. You have no chance when you don’t swing,” Twins manager Ron

Gardenhire said.

Correia, who leads the Twins in wins,

starts, innings and strikeouts, left with no outs and two on in the

seventh, and reliever Caleb Thielbar escaped with a popped-up bunt by

Ben Zobrist that became a double play and a pickoff throw that caught

David DeJesus stealing.

That was about the only sequence for the Rays that went wrong.

Archer took advantage of the weakened

Twins lineup, missing star Joe Mauer and a whole lot more, and never let

a runner advance past second base. In the fifth inning, he hit Darin

Mastroianni with a pitch to put two on with one out.

But Archer retired Clete Thomas and

Eduardo Escobar on called third strikes, skipping off the mound and

pumping his arm with a clenched fist on his way to the dugout. His

changeup was extra sharp.

“I’ve had games where it’s been decent, but tonight was the best it’s been in my career,” Archer said.

Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando

Rodney each pitched a scoreless inning in relief, and Rodney recorded

his 35th save in 43 tries with a perfect ninth. So Archer left the game

in good hands, even if he felt he could’ve pitched longer.

“He’s got a long career ahead of him,

so at one point he’s got to understand that and realize it’s not a bad

thing,” catcher Jose Molina said.

NOTES:

Mauer (concussion) felt good working out for the second straight day,

and general manager Terry Ryan said the team will consider taking him on

the road next week. … RHP Jesse Crain, who has yet to pitch for the

Rays since being acquired in a July trade with the White Sox because of a

shoulder problem, might be ready for game action next week. … LHP

Matt Moore (15-3, 3.18 ERA) will try to extend his seven-game winning

streak on Saturday for the Rays, against Twins rookie LHP Andrew Albers

(2-2, 3.35 ERA). … Zobrist became the Rays’ leader in career walks,

passing Carlos Pena on the franchise list.