Rays 12, Twins 6

Evan Longoria is finally in Tampa Bay’s lineup again, and the

Rays have celebrated his return this week with some of their best

games of the season.

Their surge is hardly a coincidence.

Matt Joyce hit a two-run homer and a two-run double, Jose Molina

drove in three runs, and the Rays beat the Minnesota Twins 12-6 on

Friday night to keep pace in the crowded American League wild card

race with their ninth win in 12 games.

”Some people argue that can happen with economics. It can

happen within a baseball team, too. So yeah, I like the

trickle-down effect,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. ”I think it

has impacted the bottom of the batting order, and you know Longo’s

presence has made a difference. He’s been the spark.”

Jeremy Hellickson (7-7) won for the third time in four starts

despite lasting only five innings. He had an 8-1 lead after a

six-run second by the Rays, who batted around twice and won their

fourth straight game. This is their longest streak since June 7-10.

Tampa Bay won six in a row twice earlier in the season.

”From the get-go I think we were pretty excited about our team

and the offense that we were going to have,” said Joyce, who is

hitting right in front of Longoria. ”We’ve had to deal with a lot

of injuries, and gradually we’ve kind of got some guys back.”

Longoria drove in a run with a second-inning single, giving him

four RBIs in four games since coming back from his 85-game absence

caused by a partially torn left hamstring. Maddon spoke before the

game about the boost Longoria has given to the team’s spirit just

by being in the lineup, and the Rays improved to 19-8 this season

when he is.

”In this game sometimes you can outthink yourself, so if it

gives anyone in here a little bit of an edge or a lift or whatever,

then I guess I’m doing my job,” said Longoria, 5 for 15 since his


The Twins had won nine of 13, but rookie Cole De Vries (2-3) was

roughed up from the first pitch. Desmond Jennings hit the first of

a season-high six doubles by the Rays and scored on Joyce’s

no-doubt drive to right field. De Vries got only four outs and gave

up seven hits, eight runs and 14 total bases, his ERA soaring from

3.81 to 4.77 in his 11th start of 2012.

”It just came on so quick and so hard that before I knew it I

was already out of the game,” De Vries said.

The Rays started a 10-game trip in style, finishing one short of

their season-high score, 13 at Miami on June 9. They started the

day in what is essentially a five-team chase for the two wild card

spots, one game behind Oakland and a half-game back of Baltimore

and Detroit.

Ben Zobrist, playing shortstop for the second straight game, was

the only starter without a hit. He grounded into three double

plays, tying the franchise record set by Javier Valentin in


But he made two slick pick-ups of ground balls up the middle,

including one that ended the first inning with Josh Willingham on

first. Willingham had driven in Joe Mauer with a single for his

85th RBI, third-most in the AL behind Miguel Cabrera and Josh


This was Mauer’s 12th three-hit game of the season, on the night

when the first 20,000 fans through the gates got his replica

sideburns as a souvenir.

Hellickson finished at least six innings in all five of his July

starts, but he has totaled only nine innings in two August turns.

Still, with the large early lead he breezed to another victory,

despite allowing seven hits and three runs with two walks and three


Jeff Manship relieved De Vries and retired 11 straight batters

until stumbling during a four-run sixth on Molina’s two-run single

and B.J. Upton’s two-run double.

”You get knocked around like that early, and it kind of takes

the fight out of you for a little bit,” Twins manager Ron

Gardenhire said.

NOTES: Maddon said Longoria will stay as the DH on this trip and

not move back to 3B. ”If it were to happen it would be a great

surprise,” Maddon said. … Rays LH J.P. Howell stretched his

scoreless streak to 22 innings, tying RH Fernando Rodney for the

longest in franchise history. … All-Star LH David Price (14-4,

2.49 ERA) will pitch for the Rays on Saturday night, trying to

become the first in the franchise’s 15-year history to reach 15 or

more wins in two seasons. RH Nick Blackburn (4-7, 7.42 ERA) will

take the mound for the Twins for the 18th time this year.

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