Tampa Bay at Minnesota

Scoreboard
Tampa Bay (8-12) «200020021790
Minnesota (9-11)000001000150

Rays 7, Twins 1

CBSSports.com wire reports
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Rays manager Joe Maddon twice defied convention and sent pitching coach Jim Hickey to talk to starter Jeff Niemann during an at-bat.

The unusual mound visits couldn't have worked out any better.

Niemann got out of both jams Monday night and kept the Minnesota Twins guessing into the sixth inning, and Carlos Pena hit his majors-leading ninth home run to lift Tampa Bay to a 7-1 victory.

"Both times I said, 'Jimmy, go talk to him,"' said Maddon of the rare mid-at-bat trip to the rubber. "You could see he was just on the verge of keeping it together or not. Big moments in the game, so I just thought it was the right time to go out there."

Niemann (2-2) gave up just three hits and one run in 5 2/3 innings and the bullpen didn't allow a run the rest of the way for the defending AL champions, who are off to an identically slow start as last season (8-12) before they went on a stunning run to the World Series.

He walked four but only ran into trouble twice, and Hickey must have said just the right things to settle him down. In the first inning, he walked Alexi Casilla and hit Justin Morneau and fell behind Jason Kubel 2-0. Hickey visited the mound, and Niemann got Kubel to fly out to center on the next pitch and Crede to pop out to right to end the inning.

In the fourth, Niemann walked Michael Cuddyer, gave up a single to Delmon Young and then fell behind 2-0 to Jose Morales. Again, Hickey came to the mound for the unconventional mid-at bat visit.

And again, on the very next pitch, Niemann got Morales to line into a double play to escape unscathed.

Hickey said he just reminded Niemann to stay true to his mechanics and trust his pitches.

"It's not unusual, really, to do that," Hickey said. "You try to kind of stay away from it, but both were at the prompting of Joe, although I was on the top step both times. Just a little bit of a reminder."

The words clearly resonated.

"When things get heated out there, just to be able to make a pitch or two can really change the game," Niemann said. "I was able to do that today and it was good."

Pena also had a triple and three RBIs. Former Twin Jason Bartlett added two hits and a homer.

Joe Crede hit a solo home run in the sixth for the Twins, but that was all they could muster in their first look at the 6-foot-9 righty.

"He has a little funk to him, a little hitch in his giddy-up," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The ball comes out of his hand pretty good."

The Twins went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position after leading the majors in that category a year ago.

Scott Baker (0-3) gave up four runs and six hits with seven strikeouts in six innings of his third straight mediocre start, but Gardenhire said it "was a step in the right direction."

It's been a struggle for Baker all season. He missed his first start of the season with a sore shoulder and hasn't been able to find the form that prompted the Twins to sign him to a four-year, $15.25 million contract in March.

"For the most part, it was right where I needed to be," Baker said. "They were able to string a few hits together and score a couple runs in a couple different innings."

Notes

Rays CF B.J. Upton snapped an 0-for-19 skid with a single in the seventh, then got picked off first base by R.A. Dickey. ... It's been a struggle for the catcher Morales defensively all season. He dropped a pitchout in the two-run fifth inning, one of two passed balls on the night. ... Gardenhire said OF Carlos Gomez will leave the team on Tuesday to fly to Florida where his wife will give birth to the couple's first child. He will rejoin the team on Friday. ... Rays RHP Jason Isringhausen made another rehab start on Monday. He gave up one run on two hits and threw 29 pitches in one inning for Double-A Montgomery.

 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Players of the Game
Tampa Bay

C. Pena
AB 4
R 2
H 2
HR 1
RBI 3
Tampa Bay

J. Niemann
IP 5.2
H 3
ER 1
BB 4
K 4
 

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Tampa Bay Rays
B.J. Upton, CF5010011 .160
Carl Crawford, LF3000100 .284
Evan Longoria, 3B3221100 .371
Carlos Pena, 1B4223012 .257
Pat Burrell, DH4011020 .238
Gabe Gross, RF4000021 .188
Dioner Navarro, C4110000 .188
Akinori Iwamura, 2B4000011 .284
Jason Bartlett, SS4222010 .371
Totals3579728  
Batting
2B - Evan Longoria (9, Baker)
3B - Carlos Pena (1, Baker)
HR - Carlos Pena (9, Dickey), Jason Bartlett (3, Morillo)
RBI - Evan Longoria (17), Carlos Pena 3 (24), Pat Burrell (8), Jason Bartlett 2 (7)
2-OUT RBI - Evan Longoria (4), Carlos Pena (4), Pat Burrell (4), Jason Bartlett (4)
PK - B.J. Upton (1, Dickey)
Team LOB - 3
Fielding
DP - Iwamura-Bartlett
Tampa Bay Rays
Jeff Niemann (W,2-2) 5.2311441 4.43
Grant Balfour (H,2) 0.1200010 7.50
Joe Nelson (H,3) 1.1000010 3.00
Dan Wheeler 0.2000010 8.59
J.P. Howell 1000020 2.16
HBP - Morneau (by Jeff Niemann)
Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Niemann 94-50, Grant Balfour 16-12, Joe Nelson 20-17, Dan Wheeler 9-6, J.P. Howell 12-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Niemann 1-11, Dan Wheeler 1-0
Batters Faced - Jeff Niemann 24, Grant Balfour 3, Joe Nelson 4, Dan Wheeler 2, J.P. Howell 3
Minnesota Twins
Denard Span, CF4010012 .306
Alexi Casilla, 2B2000212 .180
Justin Morneau, 1B3000014 .304
Jason Kubel, DH4000024 .309
Joe Crede, 3B4111012 .207
Michael Cuddyer, RF2000200 .208
Delmon Young, LF4010011 .255
Jose Morales, C4010012 .361
Nick Punto, SS4010010 .236
Totals3115149  
Batting
HR - Joe Crede (3, Niemann)
RBI - Joe Crede (6)
2-OUT RBI - Joe Crede (4)
SB - Denard Span 2 (5, 2nd base off Niemann/Navarro, 3rd base off Niemann/Navarro), Alexi Casilla (2, 2nd base off Niemann/Navarro), Michael Cuddyer (2, 2nd base off Balfour/Navarro)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
PB - Jose Morales 2 (4)
Minnesota Twins
Scott Baker (L,0-3) 6644170 9.82
R.A. Dickey 2222111 5.73
Juan Morillo 1111001 22.50
WP - Scott Baker (1)
Pitches-Strikes - Scott Baker 99-65, R.A. Dickey 35-19, Juan Morillo 12-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Scott Baker 3-8, R.A. Dickey 1-3
Batters Faced - Scott Baker 25, R.A. Dickey 8, Juan Morillo 4
Game Information
Attendance - 17988
Game Time - 2:53
Temperature - 69
Umpires - Home - Gary Darling, First Base - Bill Hohn, Second Base - Bruce Dreckman, Third Base - Paul Emmel