MINNEAPOLIS (AP) All Steven Souza Jr. could do after making a head-scratching blunder in the outfield was laugh, take his medicine and wave to the jeering crowd.
Oh, and hit a homer.
Souza followed an embarrassing misplay in right field with a towering solo shot to back Chris Archer’s 11 strikeouts in Tampa Bay’s 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.
”I’m going to be a GIF forever,” Souza said with a chuckle.
Kennys Vargas hit a looping liner into right-center field in the seventh inning and Souza gave chase. But he lost the ball in the lights and then decided to dive and hope for the best.
”I just hit the deck hoping it wasn’t going to hit me in the face,” Souza said. ”I had no idea where it was. When I looked up, it was about 40 feet away from me.”
Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier doubled over laughing while watching the replay.
”Good effort,” Rays manager Kevin Cash deadpanned. ”You’re never surprised with anything he does. That’s Souz.”
When Souza stepped to the plate in the eighth inning, the Twins showed the replay of the dive on the video board and the crowd gave a tongue-in-cheek standing ovation. A good sport, Souza smiled as he stepped into the box, then belted his eighth homer into the second deck in left field to make it 5-1.
”It’s all in good fun. You play this game, you’re going to make a fool of yourself eventually,” he said. ”I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a standing ovation for making a bad play. That was pretty funny.”
Archer (4-3) gave up two runs and five hits in 7 2/3 innings and reached double digits in strikeouts for the fourth time in five May starts. Logan Morrison and Kiermaier added two-run homers and Alex Colome got four outs for his 13th save, winning a battle with slugger Miguel Sano with two on in the eighth inning.
Hector Santiago (4-3) gave up three runs and four hits and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings. Vargas and Brian Dozier drove in runs for first-place Minnesota, one of the surprise teams in the league this season.
Routinely hitting 97 mph with his fastball and mixing in a knee-buckling slider, Archer set down 10 straight between an infield single from Jason Castro in the third inning and a sharp single from Joe Mauer in the seventh.
Vargas drove Mauer in to put the Twins on the board, ending the Rays’ pitching staff’s streak of scoreless innings at 23.
Archer now has 51 strikeouts in May and has one more start to break David Price’s club record of 54 set in June 2014.
”Impressed by his velocity as well as his slider command,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. ”We swung and missed at that slider I don’t know how many times. When it had depth it was almost unhittable.”
Archer got some help from his defense to put the clamps on a team with the fifth-best batting average in the American League.
Souza made a lunging catch at the wall in right field to take a hit away from Vargas in the second inning and Corey Dickerson sprinted to catch a liner from Mauer off of his shoelaces in the fourth inning.
Rays: RHP Brad Boxberger, on the 60-day disabled list with a right flexor strain, is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Monday in Florida.
Twins: Closer Glen Perkins, who has been on the disabled list all season with shoulder problems, threw a bullpen on Friday. He will throw again on Tuesday before departing to Florida for extended spring training. … Hard-throwing prospect Nick Burdi will undergo Tommy John surgery.
Rays: RHP Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 3.14) will start Game 2 on Saturday. Odorizzi leads the majors with 20 no-decisions since the start of last season, 16 of which have come after yielding two earned runs or fewer.
Twins: Molitor said that LHP Adalberto Mejia (1-1, 4.96) will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to start Saturday’s game. LHP Adam Wilk, claimed off waivers from the Mets, was designated for assignment to make room for him.
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