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.”