Twins 4, Devil Rays 1
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—The Minnesota Twins got clutch hits from two key players and a stellar outing from their fifth starter.
That is a formula they would love to follow the rest of the summer.
Joe Mauer added an RBI double for Minnesota, which won for the fifth time in six games. Offense was hard to come by for the Twins last month, but more contributions from budding stars Morneau and Mauer will be critical toward their chances of making the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
Likewise, a consistent second half from Lohse (7-6) will go a long way for Minnesota, which currently leads the AL wild-card race but remains well behind the White Sox in the Central Division.
“We’re playing as good as we can right now,” said Lohse, who gave up just four hits and one walk while striking out six. “We need to keep that going.”
Jorge Cantu, a strong candidate to represent the reeling Devil Rays in the All-Star game, drove in a run with a fourth-inning single. They have lost seven of their last eight games overall and seven in a row against Minnesota.
“His stuff was working,” Cantu said. “There’s nothing we can do about it.”
Joe Nathan worked the ninth for his 22nd save in 24 chances.
Seth McClung (0-4), making his second start since his recall from Triple-A Durham last week, gave up six hits, four runs and three walks in six innings. He struck out eight.
“Same thing as last time,” McClung said. “Good, but not good enough.”
Lohse got help from left fielder Shannon Stewart, who made a diving catch of Travis Lee’s sinking liner to end the second and leaped against the wall in the eighth to take an extra-base hit away from Nick Green.
After totaling 27 victories over the previous two seasons, Lohse stumbled to a 9-13 record with a 5.34 ERA last year and was even worse this April. He had a strong May, going 3-1 with a 2.30 ERA, but June brought mostly more troubles— until he turned in six shutout innings at Milwaukee last Sunday.
Lohse retired the first nine batters he faced, then found a bit of trouble in the fourth when Carl Crawford led off with a single. Cantu’s single, the third hit of the inning, drove in Julio Lugo and stopped Lohse’s scoreless innings streak at nine.
But rookie Jonny Gomes, who is 3-for-30 with 12 strikeouts in his last eight games, grounded into a double play to end that threat.
“I didn’t miss too many spots,” Lohse said, “and I think it showed.
“When I’m trying to do too much, that’s when I’m going to get in trouble,” added Lohse, who lowered his ERA to 4.26.
With right-hander Brad Radke fighting soreness in his neck and shoulder that will push his next start back three days, a performance like this from Lohse looked even better.
“If we can keep him rolling like that with the rest of our starters,” manager Ron Gardenhire said, “we think we’re pretty good. We’ve always said that.”
McClung, a hard-throwing right-hander, recorded all three outs in the second by strikeout. But he also let Minnesota hit for the cycle in the inning, including Morneau’s towering shot to right field—his 11th—that followed a single by Jacque Jones and a double by Lew Ford.
The scouting report for Morneau told McClung to throw a fastball up and in.
“It was a good pitch,” McClung said. “He hit it a long way. Now we know not to throw it there.”
Mauer made it 4-1 in fifth with his two-out double after McClung walked No. 9 hitter Luis Rivas to start the inning, and Tampa Bay never threatened after that.
“We’re not scoring many runs again,” manager Lou Piniella said.
Mauer had just two RBIs and eight hits in his last 10 games. Morneau had just five hits in his previous 22 at-bats. … McClung’s last start at the Metrodome, on April 30, 2003, was much worse. He failed to get out of the second inning, allowing eight of 11 batters to reach and hitting two Twins with pitches. The one that plunked Bobby Kielty followed a three-run homer by Torii Hunter, prompting the Minnesota dugout to empty briefly. … Devil Rays reliever Doug Waechter has an injured tendon in his right index finger, and he will be re-evaluated on Sunday. Piniella said he might be out for a while.