Rays-Twins Preview

Starting pitching has keyed Tampa Bay’s turnaround following a
brutal start.

The Minnesota Twins already have been stymied by the Rays’
rotation.

Wade Davis looks to shut down the Twins for the second time in
less than two weeks and help Tampa Bay move over .500 for the first
time Tuesday night at Target Field.

The Rays (11-11) took three of four from Minnesota from April
14-17, limiting the Twins to 12 runs and a .234 batting average.
All four Tampa Bay starters lasted seven innings, including Davis
(2-2, 2.73 ERA) in the second game as he allowed one run and four
hits in a 5-2 victory.

The right-hander followed that gem by yielding a run and six
hits in seven innings in Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Chicago.

That victory evened Tampa Bay’s record at 9-9, helping the Rays
become just the second team since 1900 – joining the 1991 Seattle
Mariners – to reach .500 in April after starting the season
0-6.

Tampa Bay has split its four games since and is again in
position to move above the break-even mark.

“Ever since we had that 0-6 start, our motto is, ‘We want to win
series,'” said James Shields, who pitched a four-hitter in Sunday’s
2-0 win over Toronto for his second consecutive complete game.

“That’s all we’re worried about right now, we don’t care about
anything else. All we want to do is win series.'”

The Rays have won their last four series, posting 10 victories
in 13 games after opening 1-8.

Tampa Bay’s rotation has been instrumental to the turnaround.
Its starting pitchers have worked seven or more innings in 11 of
the past 12 games while posting a 2.65 ERA.

Like the Rays, the Twins (9-12) also are starting to come
around, having won three straight and five of seven after opening
4-10.

Minnesota defeated Cleveland 4-3 on Sunday to take both games of
the rain-shortened set for its first series win.

“We got that first one out of the way,” said Jason Kubel, whose
two-run double in the seventh inning Sunday put the Twins ahead.
“Hopefully we can just keep rolling.”

Delmon Young is expected to return to Minnesota’s lineup after
sitting out the last five games with sore ribs and the flu.

Young is off to a slow start, with no homers and six RBIs after
hitting 21 home runs and driving in a team-high 112 runs last
season. He was 3 for 13 at Tropicana Field last week.

Justin Morneau wasn’t any better there, going 2 for 12, but he’s
had two hits and two RBIs in each of his two games since missing
five with an illness.

Tampa Bay’s Johnny Damon drove in six runs in the Minnesota
series, while Matt Joyce went 8 for 14 (.571) with three doubles
and three RBIs.

The Rays didn’t have to face scheduled starter Francisco Liriano
(1-3, 7.40) last week, and that likely worked to their
advantage.

Liriano is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in five career starts against
Tampa Bay. In his lone outing versus the Rays last season, the
left-hander gave up a run and four hits while striking out 10 in
seven innings of Tampa Bay’s 8-6 comeback win July 3.

Liriano is coming off his best outing of the season, and he’ll
be going on seven days’ rest after his start Friday was skipped
because of a rainout.

Against Baltimore last Monday, Liriano allowed two runs, five
hits and five walks in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-3 victory. He had a
9.42 ERA in losing his first three starts.

“We need him to get on a roll and start throwing the ball well,”
manager Ron Gardenhire said. “(This is) a really good builder for
him.”