Gibson, Twins look to even series with Rays (Apr 21, 2018)

April 21, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Wins have been hard enough for the Tampa Bay Rays to come by this season that they'll take them however they can get, embracing the momentum that comes with them.

Tampa Bay (6-13) has now won three of four games -- after opening the year 3-12 -- and hope to continue that success with a hot pitcher as Blake Snell takes the mound on Saturday afternoon.

"We feel sexy about it," outfielder Carlos Gomez said after veteran bats played a big role in Friday's 10-inning win. "It's not how old you are, it's how you feel. And every day I feel hot."

The Rays looked to have another late-inning bullpen collapse when reliever Sergio Romo, up 6-2 in the eighth, gave up a grand slam to tie the game. Max Kepler put the Twins ahead with a solo home run, but the Rays rallied to tie the game with two outs in the ninth, then won on a fielding error in the 10th when Zach Duke didn't touch first as he fielded a flip for a potential inning-ending out.

"Tough play to end on a PFP play," Twins manager Paul Molitor said of the pitchers-fielding-practice mishap.

Snell has shown the form that made him one of the Rays' top prospects of late -- he's won back-to-back starts, lasting six innings in both, with a combined 19 strikeouts and only two earned runs allowed. Snell for his career is 0-0 with a 6.75 ERA in two outings against the Twins -- he has 14 strikeouts against only two walks, but last year gave up six runs on seven hits in just four innings.

The Twins will counter with veteran right-hander Kyle Gibson, who is 1-0 with a 3.68 ERA, but hasn't made it through the fifth inning in either of his last two starts. He's struggled for his career against the Rays -- 1-4 with a 7.04 ERA, with only the Yankees (9.31) holding a higher ERA among the teams he's faced more than twice. He's given up 42 hits in 30 2/3 innings against Tampa Bay, with more walks (17) than strikeouts (15).

Both teams had bullpen issues on Friday -- Romo gave up his first career grand slam in his 577th career appearance, and Duke's ERA rose to 9.53 in taking the loss in the 10th. Minnesota is still the AL Central leader at 8-6 -- they'd be six games back in the East and 2 1/2 in the West.

The Rays can clinch a second straight series win with a victory Saturday, a small step as they work to dig themselves out of a deep early hole and get back to at least .500 baseball. Friday's winning run came off a hit from infielder Brad Miller, who had just been activated off the disabled list and was happy to provide a small spark.

"Brad came through with a nice hit and we just battled back," said teammate Denard Span. "I think that's a good character win. We showed a lot of grit tonight ... that for sure was a good, resilient character win right there."