Playing spoiler, Twins look to take series from Rays

MLB

The Minnesota Twins will try to win their third consecutive series against a division-leading opponent on Sunday afternoon when they face the Tampa Bay Rays in the rubber-game of their three-game series in Minneapolis.

The Twins started the streak by winning three of four games at the American League West-leading Houston Astros and followed that by taking two of three from the Chicago White Sox, leaders of the AL Central. All this from a team that enters play Sunday 15 games under .500 and 17 games behind the White Sox.

Now Minnesota will try to take two of three from the team with the best record in the American League, the East-leading Rays. Tampa Bay hit four home runs while winning Friday night’s series opener 10-4, while the Twins celebrated the 30th anniversary of their 1991 World Series championship team by getting four homers and 16 hits in a 12-0 victory on Saturday night.

“All the way around it was a very nice night at the ballpark,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “We didn’t play our best game (Friday). We came out today and maybe played one of one our best games of the year. Swung the bats from the start, pitched well, played well defensively, played a pretty clean game.”

Minnesota held the Rays, who had set a franchise-record by scoring eight or more runs in seven straight games, to three hits and didn’t allow a Tampa Bay player to reach second base. Starter Kenta Maeda allowed just three singles and a walk over six innings while Ralph Garza Jr., claimed off waivers from the Astros earlier this month, and Danny Coulombe finished by combining to throw three no-hit innings.

“Just mixing his pitches really, really well,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said when asked about what Maeda did to cool down his team’s offense. “We knew going in that he was going to look for you to expand the zone, and I think we did that quite a bit.

“He threw a couple of good sliders, almost like cutters, to the lefties to keep them honest, and then he was able to go to his split really whenever he wanted to and induce a lot of soft contact.”

Left-hander Charlie Barnes (0-2, 6.08 ERA) will make his third major-league start for the Twins on Sunday while right-hander Luis Patino (2-3, 4.64) will start for Tampa Bay. The rookie never has faced the Rays.

Barnes last pitched Monday night in an 11-1 loss to the White Sox. In 4 2/3 innings of relief, he allowed three runs on six hits while striking out three. Baldelli credits his team’s pitching as a major reason for its impressive 6-3 record in its past nine games against the three division leaders.

“Against these good teams you have to pitch well,” Baldelli said. “Our starters have been doing a really nice job. Basically, every spot in our rotation has come up big at different times and given us a great outing. To play good baseball, everyone has to do something. The bullpen has been throwing the ball really well, too.”

Patino, acquired from San Diego in December as part of the Blake Snell trade, will make his first career start against the Twins. The rookie received a no-decision in his most recent start in an 8-4 victory at Boston on Tuesday, allowing four runs on six hits over six innings while striking out seven.

–Fiedl Level Media

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