The Rays can match their longest winning streak in franchise history versus a single opponent with a series sweep Sunday at Target Field as David Price tries to avoid losing a career-high fourth straight start.
Tampa Bay's 7-0 win over the Twins Saturday marked its 11th straight in the series. The Rays (81-66) haven't beaten the same team 12 consecutive times since accomplishing the feat against Baltimore from April 30-Sept. 24, 2008.
A 2 hour, 4-minute rain delay limited starter Matt Moore to four innings, but five relievers combined with him on a four-hitter as Tampa Bay shut out Minnesota for the second straight game. The Rays' 15 shutouts trail only Cleveland's 16 in the AL.
They maintained a 1 1/2-game edge over Cleveland for the AL's second wild-card spot, while New York and Baltimore - who both lost Saturday - trail by 2 1/2 and three games, respectively. Kansas City also trails by three games after a 1-0 win over Detroit.
Price, however, has dropped three straight starts for the second time in his career, though he's pitched at least seven innings in each. The other time he lost three in a row was July 20-Aug. 2, 2011.
He owns a 4.50 ERA during the skid, though his last defeat was more due to a lack of offense. He limited Boston to two runs and three hits over eight innings with nine strikeouts in a 2-0 home loss on Tuesday, a strong bounce-back performance after he yielded six runs and a season-high 11 hits in a defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on Sept. 5.
"Dave was outstanding," manager Joe Maddon told the team's official website. "I thought he was great. He could not have done anything more."
Price is 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA over three career starts against the Twins. The left-hander limited Minnesota to two runs over seven innings of a 4-2 road win in the only matchup last season.
It appears to be a particularly inopportune time for the scuffling Twins (63-84) to face the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner after recording nine hits in the series' first two contests. Still without Joe Mauer due to a concussion, Minnesota has totaled 17 runs during a 2-6 stretch, going 3 for 22 (.136) with runners in scoring position over the last five.
"Those guys are playing for something over there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They're into the game and 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."
The club's bullpen could also be taxed Sunday with left-hander Pedro Hernandez (3-1, 5.25) getting the start. He needed 89 pitches to get through 4 2-3 innings of a 6-3 win over the Angels on Monday and has thrown six innings just once in nine starts.
Five different Rays recorded at least one RBI Saturday, with Desmond Jennings going 2 for 5 and driving in two. James Loney, though, went 0 for 5 to end his eight-game hitting streak.
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