Red-hot Rays win sixth straight

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The positive numbers keep amassing for the Tampa Bay Rays. Six wins in a row, 10 in 11 games, 13 in 16, all after a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday at Tropicana Field.
The fact those numbers keep compiling against teams with few wins themselves matters little, said Rays manager Joe Maddon.
"We don't assume anything," he said. "We don't look at records. We just play."
And play well these days. Matt Joyce and Kelly Johnson each knocked in two runs and Chris Archer provided another strong starting pitching performance as Tampa Bay extended the longest active winning streak in the majors, improved to 51-40 and fortified its hold on second place in the American League East.
The Rays are 8-1 so far in a stretch of 14 games against sub-.500 teams before the All-Star break.
Minnesota (37-50) lost its third consecutive game overall and seventh in a row against the Rays.
Archer (3-3) allowed one unearned run and three hits with two hit batters and two strikeouts in six innings. He won for the first time in five starts but gave Tampa Bay its 14th quality start in the last 16 games.
"I understand how Joe does things," Archer said. "My job is to keep the team in the game and then turn it over to the bullpen."
Alex Torres and Jake McGee each pitched a scoreless inning and Fernando Rodney picked up his 21st save despite allowing singles to the first two batters in the ninth. He recovered to strike out the side.
"They threw some really good arms at us there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We all know Rodney at the end. He's gonna misfire a little bit, but he's got filthy stuff. We got him in a situation, but he made the pitches he had to."
Both teams managed just five hits.
The Rays exploited three walks from Twins starter Kyle Gibson in the decisive fourth inning. Gibson walked Desmond Jennings and Luke Scott to start the inning but nearly escaped when he retired Ben Zobrist on a fly out and Evan Longoria on a strikeout before jumping ahead of James Loney 0-2.
But the right-hander threw four straight balls -- one on a check swing upheld by third base umpire Jerry Layne -- to load the bases. Joyce, who hadn't produced an RBI since June 15, smacked the first pitch he saw for a two-run single. Johnson, in the lineup to give rookie Wil Myers a night off, added a two-run double that gave the Rays a 4-0 lead.
"Walked a guy (Jennings) I had been attacking all day and got behind and just didn't recuperate," Gibson said. "Worried about him too much on first base and walked (Scott). Then had myself out of it after making a couple good pitches and I just couldn't put Loney away."
Maddon appreciated what he called "unselfish at-bats" in which his hitters worked counts and forced Gibson to throw strikes.
"It's not just about hits," he said. "It's about not making outs."
Gibson (1-2) allowed four runs, four hits and four walks in six innings.
Minnesota scored an unearned run in the sixth when Brian Dozier was hit by a pitch, advanced to third on an errant pick-off throw from Archer and scored on a fly out by Ryan Doumit.
NOTES: Rays starting pitchers have allowed three runs or fewer in 11 straight games. ... The Rays committed an error for the first time in nine games. ... Twins C Joe Maurer hit his 27th double of the season, the most before the All-Star break in his career. ... Myers was not in the starting lineup because Maddon was looking for a day to rest him this week and liked Kelly Johnson's matchup against Gibson. Myers was batting .161 over his previous eight games after hitting .296 in his first 13 games this season. ... Twins LHP Caleb Thielbar is expected to be placed on the bereavement list Thursday to attend the funeral of his grandmother. RHP Michael Tonkin would be recalled from Triple-A Rochester for three days. ... Gardenhire used the same lineup as Monday, with six hitters batting from the left side (including switch hitters) against the right-handed Archer. ... Joyce was batting just .228 with runners in scoring position (13-for-57) before his fourth-inning single.

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