MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Not even the All-Star break could cool off the Tampa Bay Rays.
Ben Zobrist homered and Evan Longoria had three RBIs to lead the Rays to a 6-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.
Alex Cobb (5-6) allowed two runs in 5 2-3 innings and Matt Joyce added an RBI single as the Rays continue playing themselves back into contention and impressing manager Joe Maddon.
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”We pretty much picked up where we did leave it off at the All-Star break,” Maddon said. ”We were crispy, man. That felt good.”
Trevor Plouffe homered for the Twins, a two-run shot in the third highlighted by a fan leaning over the railing in left-center and making a great catch.
Tampa Bay took a 3-0 lead in the third on Longoria’s bases-loaded double that soared just beyond the reach of right fielder Oswaldo Arcia.
”That’s what really can start to breed confidence,” said Longoria, who was hitting just .220 in July before Friday. ”It was a good time right there for me to be able to do that and have a renewed slate, so to speak, in the second half.”
The Twins could have escaped the inning with minimal damage, but a come-backer off the bat of Desmond Jenning ricocheted off the glove of starting pitcher Kyle Gibson (8-8), ruining a possible double play.
Zobrist walked and Longoria cleared the bases after Joyce popped out.
”If I field my position there in the third inning and get a double play, or if it turns out if I let the ball go, (Brian) Dozier’s right up in the middle in his shift, it’s a double play and the defense gets me out of the inning,” he said.
After Plouffe’s home run, Zobrist made it 5-2 in the fifth with a two-run homer off Gibson that bounced off the top of the limestone overhang in right field.
Both teams need to get off to a hot start in the second half if they want to contend for a playoff spot instead of trade away veterans before the deadline.
The Rays had a losing record at the All-Star break for the first time since 2007, but won 11 of 15 heading into the break. Since 2010, Tampa Bay holds the best record in baseball after the All-Star break.
Even though it was only a single game in July, Cobb felt it was really important for the Rays to come back after some time off with a win.
”It definitely starts that momentum that we need to get going,” he said. ”We’re going in the right direction.”
With the state silhouette still mowed in the center-field grass, Minnesota played its first game back at Target Field after hosting the All-Star game on Tuesday.
The Twins added Kendrys Morales in early June to bolster their offense and try to remain in contention, but have faltered since. They did win five of their last six before the break and kicked off a 10-game homestand Friday.
NOTES: Minnesota activated rookie IF/OF Danny Santana and sent reserve OF Chris Herrmann to Triple-A Rochester before the game. … The Rays called up C Curt Casali from Triple-A Durham and transferred OF Wil Myers from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list. Casali led off the third and lined a single for his first major-league hit. … Twins GM Terry Ryan said 1B Joe Mauer is ”making steady progress” from an oblique strain, but has not resumed batting activities. … David Price (9-7, 3.23 ERA), who’s been in Minneapolis all week as the Rays lone All-Star and is a possible trade piece if the Rays are out of contention, faces Phil Hughes (10-5, 3.92) Saturday night.