Rays-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Rays appear to have a winning combination at work Saturday night as they continue their playoff push.

The visiting Rays have taken 10 straight meetings with the Minnesota Twins, and starter Matt Moore has won his last seven decisions as these teams continue a three-game set.

Tampa Bay (80-66) won 3-0 in Friday's opener and leads Cleveland by 1 1/2 games for the AL's second wild card. The Yankees are two games back, Baltimore is 2 1/2 behind and Kansas City 3 1/2.

The Rays have won all five 2013 meetings with the Twins, and this 10-game run is the second-longest streak over an opponent since they won 12 straight over Baltimore from April 30-Sept. 24, 2008.

Moore (15-3, 3.18 ERA) has given up two runs over 11 2-3 innings in two starts since missing a month due to elbow soreness. He is 7-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his last nine outings.

The left-hander can move into a tie for the major-league lead in wins among southpaws in his first career start at Target Field. He is 1-0 with a 3.95 ERA in two outings against a Minnesota team that is a league-worst 9-22 against the AL East.

The Twins are batting .179 with 30 strikeouts during a three-game slide after being limited to five hits Friday. Brian Dozier, who has a team-high 61 RBIs, is 1 for 9 in that span.

Minnesota (63-83) has lost 13 of its last 15 home games.

"I know hitting's not easy. I've been there. But you have to defend the plate. You have to put the ball in play. You have no chance when you don't swing,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Tampa Bay will get its first look at rookie starter Andrew Albers (2-2, 3.35), who was outstanding Sunday with seven scoreless innings in a 2-0 home defeat to Toronto as the left-hander continues to push for a chance to be in Minnesota's 2014 rotation.

"He'll be in the mix and that's what you want is to be in the mix when you get to spring training," Gardenhire said.

The Rays are batting a major league-best .273 against left-handed pitchers as they look to win three straight for the first time since Aug. 18-20.

They would like to get their bats untracked since they are averaging 2.6 runs per game to tie Chicago for the AL's worst mark since Aug. 29, while hitting .183 with runners in scoring position.

"Offensively, we just haven't really got on that good roll, which we will. I really believe that roll's coming," manager Joe Maddon told the Rays' official website. "Nobody's fatigued, I don't think. I may look to still give a guy rest here or there as we go forward. But overall I think the guys are in good shape. We just need that one breakout moment to really get them to relax and just go hit."

Maddon did not use left-handed hitters Luke Scott or Matt Joyce on Friday, and both could sit against Albers. Scott is 1 for 9 while playing sparingly since missing over two weeks with back spasms while Joyce is in a 1-for-29 rut.

James Loney is hitting a major league-best .360 on the road and is 10 for 31 during an eight-game hitting streak.

Ben Zobrist, second on the team with 67 RBIs, is hitless in 15 at-bats and batting .235 against left-handers this year.

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