Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon praised the Target Field grounds crew almost as much as he praised his own team after the Rays beat the Minnesota Twins, 7-0, on a rainy Saturday night.
”Their groundskeepers, that was a great job getting that field ready,” said Maddon, whose team waited around through a 2 hour, 4 minute rain delay in the fourth inning before finishing off Minnesota.
”I know we won, but I would’ve said the same thing had we not won that game. It really had an awkward everything about it. Everything kind of worked out, so that was a great job on their part.”
Matt Moore and five relievers combined on a four-hitter and the Rays held their wild-card lead.
The Rays teamed to blank the Twins for the second straight day, and threw their 15th shutout of the season. Tampa Bay beat Minnesota for the 11th time in a row.
Desmond Jennings hit a pair of RBI doubles as the Rays stayed 1 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland for the second AL wild-card spot.
Evan Longoria and Yunel Escobar each added two hits and an RBI.
After going through a stretch during which they lost 13 of 17, the Rays look more relaxed and have won three straight.
”Just finding ways to win. Hitting better with guys on base and in scoring position, we’re finding a way to get them in,” Jennings said. ”Getting a few runs before the delay kind of relaxed us a bit.”
After first pitch was delayed by 7 minutes, Tampa Bay took a 4-0 lead before the fourth-inning delay.
Moore threw 60 pitches and struck out five over three innings and didn’t return after the delay. He has allowed only one earned run in 14 2/3 innings since coming off the disabled list earlier this month.
The short outing might end up being a good thing for the Rays down the stretch.
”Hopefully it will benefit me just this week,” Moore said. ”As far as my side work goes, hopefully I should be a little less sore those days.”
Brandon Gomes (1-1) pitched the fourth inning and got the win.
The few fans remaining in Target Field cheered as the tarp was pulled off the infield, and the Rays went right back to work having their way with the Twins once the game resumed. Minnesota hasn’t beat Tampa Bay since April 20 of last season.
Andrew Albers (2-3) allowed four runs in four innings for Minnesota. After winning his first two starts, the rookie hasn’t won in more than a month.
The Twins haven’t scored in the last 19 innings and have been outscored on their current three-game losing streak 36-5.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire would like to see a better effort, regardless of his team’s position in the standings.
”Those guys are playing for something over there. They’re into the game and we didn’t look like we were really getting after it too much,” he said. ”And I guess the weather really bothered us a lot more, which is pretty disappointing. So, we’ll have to go about our business, see if we can come back tomorrow and play. Disappointing though.”
Jennings hit a double that scored Sean Rodriguez in the sixth. He hit another RBI double to the same spot in left that made it 7-0 in the eighth.
There’s a reason the umpires waited so long for a break in the rain to resume this one. If the game would have been canceled in the fourth, the two teams would’ve started over on Sunday and likely played a doubleheader, erasing the four-run lead Tampa Bay had built.
Instead, the Rays have another win and are another step out of the hole they dug during their recent slump.
”It’s getting better. You still want to see more,” Maddon said. ”What I’m starting to see is a greater looseness about the group. I think they’re starting to relax a little bit.”
NOTES: Twins GM Terry Ryan said C Joe Mauer (concussion) didn’t take batting practice or run the bases before the game, but he did do cardio work with team trainers. … Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist – hitless in his last 15 at-bats – was given the night off. … It was the sixth weather-affected game at Target Field this season. … David Price (8-8, 3.45) will try to break a three-start losing streak when he starts for the Rays in Sunday’s series finale. For Minnesota, Pedro Hernandez (3-1, 5.25) will make his first start against the Rays.