Tampa Bay at Minnesota

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Tampa Bay002001000380
Minnesota «00040002x6111

Morneau leads rally with bases-loaded single, Twins top Rays

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins are running out of healthy players and finding a way to win at the same time. Credit the confidence they gained during their pre-All-Star-break surge.

Justin Morneau's bases-loaded bloop single scored two of Minnesota's four runs in the fourth inning, and the Twins beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 6-3 Monday night for their fourth straight victory.

Scott Baker (3-5) gave up three runs in six innings in his return to the rotation, and the Twins improved their major league-leading home record to 34-11.

Their ninth consecutive win over the Devil Rays, dating to July 21, 2004, was also their 26th in their last 33 games overall. Rondell White added a two-run single in the ninth, and Joe Nathan finished up for his 17th save.

"It's a little bit different right now, because we're not as healthy as we were," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But guys are playing. It's pretty fun on the bench. Guys are loose, and we're laughing about things. ... No one's panicking, and I think that's the feeling you have to have."

Greg Norton and Travis Lee homered for Tampa Bay, but rookie Tim Corcoran (4-1) got stuck with his first major league loss after letting a 2-0 lead slip away.

Lee, who hit four homers in the first two weeks of the season, went deep for the first time in 176 at-bats since April 13. He did it against the team that drafted him in 1996 and ultimately lost his rights after contentious, complicated negotiations over his contract that summer.

The Devil Rays had plenty of chances, but they left seven runners on in the first five innings.

"We hit the ball well early, and we did take advantage at some points," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "We've got to hit the ball more consistently."

After beginning the season as the fifth starter, Baker was demoted to Triple-A with a 6.06 ERA in nine starts. In his first outing in the majors since May 30, Baker was a little better than before.

He struggled early, stranding two runners in each of the first two innings and needing 53 pitches to get through the first three frames. With one on and one out in the third, Norton fouled off a pair of two-strike offerings before sending a 2-2 pitch off the folded-up football seats in right for his fifth homer in 105 at-bats this year.

Lee's homer leading off the sixth brought Tampa Bay within 4-3, but Baker retired the next three batters to finish the inning. He struck out six, walked one and yielded eight hits.

Baker used 13 sliders, a pitch he worked on with Triple-A Rochester over the past month, to help keep Tampa Bay off balance.

"It seems like every place we go we've been running into good pitching," Maddon said.

Corcoran, called up from the minors a month ago, gave up seven hits, four runs and two walks in six innings. He struck out one, after allowing only three runs in 18 2/3 innings over his previous three starts. Corcoran also picked up a victory in relief, on July 9.

He faced the minimum nine batters through three innings, but the right-hander quickly ran into trouble in the fourth. Luis Castillo doubled and Nick Punto drove him in with a base hit. Joe Mauer followed with a hard single and Michael Cuddyer walked on four pitches to load the bases.

Morneau lifted a single over shortstop Julio Lugo's head to score two. Jason Kubel reached on a fielder's choice grounder, and White did the same -- driving in Cuddyer to make it 4-2 Minnesota.

"I just lost a little bit of focus out there," Corcoran said. "I'm just trying to get it back."

The Twins placed three outfielders on the disabled list during their last series, and Kubel is bothered by sore knees and not at full strength. Punto was taken out as a precaution with a jammed left knee, an injury he felt on the bases in the fourth inning. He'll have an MRI test on Tuesday, and he said he wasn't too worried. But the team can't afford to lose him for much time.

"It's a tribute to this organization in the sense that we've got depth," Cuddyer said. "We're using it up real quick, but that's what we take pride in ... being able to bring up guys to the big leagues and having them have success from the get-go."

Notes

  • Devil Rays 3B Ty Wigginton is still day to day with a strained back. He probably won't be ready until Wednesday.
  • Tuesday's game will feature two All-Star left-handers, Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir and Minnesota's Francisco Liriano. According to the Devil Rays, it will be only the second time since 1989 that two 10-game winners ages 22 or younger faced off in the same game. The last instance was in 2002, when Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia beat Chicago's Jon Garland.
  • The Twins' bullpen entered with a baseball-best 3.25 ERA before striking out three in three perfect innings.
 
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Justin Morneau follows his bases-loaded bloop single to give the Twins the lead for good.  (AP)
Justin Morneau follows his bases-loaded bloop single to give the Twins the lead for good. (AP)

Players of the Game
Minnesota

J. Morneau
AB 4
R 0
H 3
HR 0
RBI 2
Tampa Bay

T. Lee
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 1
 

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Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Julio Lugo, SS5010022 .308
Carl Crawford, LF3010102 .317
Rocco Baldelli, CF4110011 .301
Jorge Cantu, 2B4000013 .264
Greg Norton, RF4112012 .276
Jonny Gomes, DH4000021 .238
Travis Lee, 1B4121010 .202
Dioner Navarro, C4010011 .264
Tomas Perez, 3B4010000 .196
Totals363831912 
Batting
HR - Greg Norton (5, Baker), Travis Lee (5, Baker)
RBI - Greg Norton 2 (11), Travis Lee (14)
2-OUT RBI - Greg Norton 2 (4)
SB - Rocco Baldelli (2, 2nd base off Baker/Mauer)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
DP - Lugo-Lee
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Tim Corcoran (L,4-1) 6744210 2.48
Jon Switzer 1.2322000 2.61
Brian Meadows 0.1100000 4.10
IBB - Mauer by Tim Corcoran
Pitches-Strikes - Tim Corcoran 86-49, Jon Switzer 26-16, Brian Meadows 6-4
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Tim Corcoran 8-7, Jon Switzer 3-2
Batters Faced - Tim Corcoran 25, Jon Switzer 8, Brian Meadows 2
Minnesota Twins
Luis Castillo, 2B4110001 .280
Nick Punto, 3B2111000 .313
   a- Luis Rodriguez, PH-3B2000001 .203
Joe Mauer, C3220100 .375
Michael Cuddyer, RF3210102 .265
Justin Morneau, 1B4032002 .310
Jason Kubel, DH4010003 .297
    Josh Rabe, PR-DH0000000 .000
Rondell White, LF4013010 .191
Jason Tyner, CF4000003 .375
Jason Bartlett, SS3010000 .301
Totals3361162112 
a-flied out for Punto in the 5th
Batting
2B - Luis Castillo (15, Corcoran)
3B - Jason Bartlett (1, Corcoran)
RBI - Nick Punto (16), Justin Morneau 2 (77), Rondell White 3 (19)
2-OUT RBI - Rondell White 2 (9)
SB - Nick Punto (8, 2nd base off Corcoran/Navarro)
CS - Justin Morneau (2, 2nd base by Corcoran/Navarro)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
E - Jason Bartlett (2, misplayed grounder)
Minnesota Twins
Scott Baker (W,3-5) 6833162 5.89
Pat Neshek (H,1) 1000010 0.00
Juan Rincon (H,15) 1000010 1.91
Joe Nathan (S,17) 1000010 1.62
Pitches-Strikes - Scott Baker 92-64, Pat Neshek 16-11, Juan Rincon 12-9, Joe Nathan 19-11
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Scott Baker 6-7, Juan Rincon 2-0
Batters Faced - Scott Baker 28, Pat Neshek 3, Juan Rincon 3, Joe Nathan 3
Game Information
Attendance - 17071
Game Time - 2:37
Temperature - 70
Umpires - Home - Tim Welke, First Base - Gary Cederstrom, Second Base - Bob Davidson, Third Base - Jim Reynolds