Twins 3, Devil Rays 2

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Carl Crawford compounded one baserunning mistake with another, and Justin Morneau made him pay for it.

After Crawford’s two blunders caused a double play in the top of the ninth, Morneau led off the bottom of the inning with an opposite-field home run off Brian Stokes to lift the Minnesota Twins over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3-2 on Thursday night.

“Right when you think you saw everything,” Minnesota’s Torii Hunter said, “you see something else. I’ve made mistakes before. We’ve all made mistakes, just not like that.”

After the Devil Rays rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the eighth, Ben Zobrist led off the ninth with a single off Joe Nathan. Crawford then lined a double into the right-field corner and started blazing around the bases.

“He can fly!” Hunter said.

He was a little too fast for his own good this time.

Tampa third base coach Tom Foley held Zobrist at third, but Crawford was right on his heels and the two met at the bag when right fielder Michael Cuddyer’s relay throw came to Luis Castillo at second base.

Castillo saw the predicament and threw to catcher Joe Mauer, who caught the ball up the third base line and chased down Zobrist for out No. 1.

“I was running with my head down,” Crawford said. “I thought it was an automatic triple, and I was running with my head down. I didn’t see the stop sign, and I got caught up.”

Then, instead of staying on third base, Crawford broke back for second base. Mauer threw to shortstop Alexi Casilla to complete the 9-4-2-6 double play.

“I turned and saw two guys there on third base and I said, ‘What’s going on?”’ Castillo said. “I’ve never seen a play like that. Never.”

Nathan (1-0) got Ty Wigginton to ground out to second to end the inning. Stokes then hung a 1-2 changeup that Morneau lofted toward the left-field seats. The ball landed in the first row, just over the outstretched glove of a leaping Crawford. It was the reigning AL MVP’s third homer this season and Minnesota’s first game-ending homer since Jason Kubel’s 12th-inning grand slam on June 13 against Boston.

“That was crazy how quick it turned around,” Morneau said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever see that again. Two guys on third base to two guys out to it’s over.”

Another learning experience for skipper Joe Maddon’s Devil Rays, the youngest team in the majors.

“Both runners should just stay at third base and you let the infielder tag him out,” Maddon said. “The runner that’s already been there is entitled to the bag. The other guy’s out.”

Zobrist thought differently.

“I know now that I probably should’ve just walked into it at home, and at least we’ve got one out and a man on third still,” he said. “In the future, that’s what I’m going to be thinking if something like that does happen.”

The Devil Rays, who stranded 11 runners, have lost 10 straight at the Metrodome since June 2004. They wasted a strong start from Casey Fossum, who allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings.

Tampa Bay trailed 2-0 in the eighth, then tied it on a homer by Wigginton and an RBI single by Carlos Pena off Juan Rincon.

“The way we played tonight and how we fought back against one of the better bullpens in the American League, I was very proud of our play,” Maddon said.

Michael Cuddyer also homered, and Carlos Silva pitched 6 2-3 scoreless innings for the Twins, who were 72-1 when leading after seven innings last season.

“Not the way you draw it up,” Nathan said. “But it worked out for me. It was a weird 1-2-3.”

Notes

Hunter received his 2006 AL Gold Glove, the sixth of his career, but had an error before the game started. Kirby Puckett Jr. threw out the first pitch, but the ball glanced off Hunter’s mitt. … Tampa’s Rocco Baldelli again was at DH. He has been splitting time between DH and CF while nursing a sore hamstring. He went 2-for-5.

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