Some outstanding starting pitching has sparked the surging Tampa Bay Rays.
Scheduled starter Roberto Hernandez has been far from dominant, but his teammates haven't helped his cause, either.
Hernandez will try to lead the Rays to a fifth straight victory Monday night with the Minnesota Twins in town for the first of four matchups.
With David Price delivering a complete-game in Sunday's 3-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox, Rays starters have a 1.67 ERA during an 8-1 run that's lifted Tampa Bay (49-40) a season-best nine games over .500.
"It's really been dictated by a very strong starting pitching," manager Joe Maddon said. "Yesterday Matt (Moore), then of course today David and we turn it over tomorrow."
The only Tampa Bay defeat during its last nine games came with Hernandez (4-10, 4.95 ERA) on the mound. The right-hander threw six-plus innings of three-run ball in Wednesday's 4-1 loss at Houston. Hernandez has a 5.06 ERA in his last four starts - but he has a 1.69 run-support average in those contests, all losses.
"He has been good,'' Maddon said. "Velocity is good, slider is good, changeup is good. Everything is good - we just haven't scored any runs for the guy.''
Hernandez has faced the Twins 21 times (17 starts) in his career - tied for the most against any team - but none since 2011 while with Cleveland. He is 5-9 with a 5.05 ERA.
The Twins (37-48), a season-worst 11 games under .500, have dropped seven of eight following Sunday's 11-5 loss at Toronto.
Minnesota, losers of 10 of 11 against AL East opponents, continues its 10-game trip with Samuel Deduno (4-3, 3.47) on the hill. The right-hander has been a bright spot on a staff with one of the majors' worst ERAs at 4.50, recording five quality starts in eight outings since being called up from Triple-A Rochester. Deduno allowed three runs in six innings of Tuesday's 7-3 loss to the New York Yankees.
"Deduno gave us an opportunity and I like what he did,'' manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Deduno has never pitched against the Rays.
He'll face a Tampa Bay team that's batting .290 with 5.4 runs per game in its last nine. Leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings has been a big part over that stretch, leading the Rays with 14 hits and 10 runs.
"He's been drawing some walks, he's been working deep counts, he's getting on base again more often, which means more stolen bases, more havoc," Maddon said. "It's all about him."
Desmond did his part against Minnesota last season, hitting .375 (9 for 24) with two homers and five RBIs as Tampa Bay won five of six meetings, including two of three at Tropicana Field.
First baseman James Loney, whose career-best 16-game hitting streak ended Sunday, is the only active Ray with an at-bat against Deduno. He's 0 for 1 with a walk in that matchup.
Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer is 12 for 28 off Hernandez, while Justin Morneau and Trevor Plouffe both have two home runs against Tampa Bay's starter.
The Rays are trying to match a season-best six-game home winning streak, while the Twins have dropped 10 of 13 on the road.
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