Twins endure ‘long night’ in another shutout loss to Rays

MINNEAPOLIS — By the end, the individual boos and catcalls from the few souls left inside Target Field could be heard plainly.

Not that the Twins needed any more audible reminders of their struggles against the Rays.

And at home.

And in 2013.

Tampa Bay continued to cruise against Minnesota, shutting out the Twins for the second night in a row with a 7-0, rain-delayed shellacking. It was the Twins’ 11th straight defeat at the hands of Tampa Bay — the longest streak against any team since the Yankees during the early 2000s.

This one may have been the most miserable.

“A long night for both teams,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire called it. “It’s not easy. But they’ve got to play in the same thing we do. We have no excuses; we just didn’t get it done, didn’t play worth a flip, and they did.”

After the Rays knocked around rookie Andrew Albers (2-3, 3.81 ERA) through four innings and took a 4-0 lead, a chilly, driving rainstorm halted the game for two hours and four minutes. That was plenty long enough to prevent Albers from a chance to make amends for his four earned runs on six hits yielded in the second-shortest appearance of his young career.

It was also ample incentive for the vast majority of 28,541 fans in attendance to bolt for the exits rather than witness another home defeat.

The Twins (63-84) have dropped 12 of their past 14 games at Target Field.

“It’s certainly not the way you want it to go,” Albers said, “and there’s not much you can do about it. You’ve just got to keep working.”

After retiring the Rays’ first three batters in order amid a steady drizzle, Albers allowed a Sean Rodriguez sacrifice fly in the second, a one-run Evan Longoria double in the third, and a Yunel Escobar RBI single and another sacrifice fly by Jose Lobaton in the fourth.

Operating under the small-ball philosophy of Joe Maddon, the Rays came in with 46 sacrifice flies — the fourth-most in the major leagues.

“They’re fighting through a lot of stuff out there,” Gardenhire said. “Neither starter, really, was throwing great. Their guy wasn’t throwing great, either. He’s got pretty good stuff, but he was battling through it, too.”

Far too typically, the Twins’ bats weren’t much help.

Minnesota was rung up 10 times and churned out just four hits. Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore (15-3, 3.11 ERA) accounted for half of the strikeouts in his three innings of pre-delay work.

He didn’t factor into the decision but maintains the majors’ second-best winning percentage (.833) behind Detroit’s Max Sherzer. Brandon Gomes pitched the bottom of the fourth inning out of the delay to earn his first victory of the season.

With the win and Texas’ loss earlier in the day, the Rays (81-66) moved into a tie for first place in the American League wild card standings.

The Twins, meanwhile, weren’t competitive once again, even with a lineup bereft of September minor-league call-ups.

“It’s the same old story,” Gardenhire said. “Those guys are playing for something over there. We didn’t look like we were really getting after it too much. I guess the weather really bothered us a lot more, which is pretty disappointing.”

Said Albers: “There’s a reason they’re competing for that wild card spot.”

Minnesota has no such pedestal it can eclipse this season, but that doesn’t mean the Twins can just roll over, Albers said.

There are 2014 jobs on the line, and the chance to help spoil nemeses’ — like the Rays — chances at a postseason run.

“We’ve got teams in playoff hunts, and that’s a major motivational factor, but we’ve got a lot of guys here that are competing for a spot next year,” Albers said emphatically. “If you’re looking for motivation, there it is.”

Minnesota wraps up its series with Tampa at 1:10 p.m. Sunday then begins its final road swing of the season with a three-game set at the Chicago White Sox on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

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