ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Aaron Hicks had the kind of night at the plate he's been looking for all year, but also committed one of Minnesota's two base running mistakes that cost the Twins a chance for a big inning.
Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist homered during a three-run seventh inning for Tampa Bay and the surging Rays improved to a season-high 10 games over .500 by beating the Twins 7-4 on Monday night.
Hicks went 4 for 4 with two doubles, a triple, two RBIs and two runs scored. However, the rookie was also picked off first base for the final out in the fourth inning, when the Twins had four hits — including a homer — but scored just two runs.
"In this game you want to eliminate errors to have success," Hicks said. "You have to be aggressive but at the same time, not make outs like that. It's something that I don't want to do again."
Justin Morneau homered to open the fourth inning and Trevor Plouffe followed with a single to center. Oswaldo Arcia then singled to right, with Plouffe advancing to third, but Arcia was thrown out at second trying to stretch his hit into a double.
Chris Parmelee followed with a sacrifice fly to right field to put the Twins ahead 3-2. Hicks then singled to center and was picked off first by catcher Jose Molina.
"Silly stuff like that will end up shooting you in the end, and it did," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "(Arcia) lost sight of the ball and thought he had the base easy, but . . . you just have to make sure there's no outs there; it could have been a big inning."
The outs helped take struggling Rays starter Roberto Hernandez off the hook.
"Anytime you can create outs on the bases from a defensive perspective, that really can bolster your outlook as well as keeping your pitcher in the game longer," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Morneau's homer was his 211th, tying Bob Allison for fourth place on the Twins' career list.
The Twins then left the bases loaded in the top of the fifth and Evan Longoria's RBI single tied the score in the bottom of the inning.
The Twins went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position through six innings.
Escobar had a leadoff tiebreaking homer in the seventh off Samuel Deduno (4-4), who departed after Desmond Jennings followed with a triple. Caleb Thielbar entered and got one out before Zobrist gave Tampa Bay a 6-3 lead with a two-run shot.
Alex Torres (3-0) pitched a perfect seventh for the Rays, who moved to a season-best 10-games (50-40) over .500.
Fernando Rodney got the final two outs to pick up his 20th save after an RBI single by Pedro Florimon off Jamey Wright.
Deduno gave up five runs and 10 hits over six-plus innings for the Twins, who have lost eight of nine.
Luke Scott put the Rays up 1-0 on a first-inning homer. Molina made it 2-0 with an RBI single in the second.
Brian Dozier hit a third-inning RBI double to pull the Twins to 2-1.
Hernandez allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings. The right-hander struck out three, walked three and hit a batter.
Hicks, who struggled early in the season before going on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, lifted his batting average to .205 with the four hits.
"I'm not worried about where my batting average is right now, I'm worried about winning ballgames," he said. "I'm swinging the bat pretty good right now and I want to keep it going and help the team win more ballgames."
The home run off Thielbar was the first of his career and snapped a string of 17 scoreless appearances, the longest streak in Twins history to begin a career. Like Hicks, Thielbar felt the sting of the loss.
"I just left (the fastball to Zobrist) up in the zone. If I get it in there, he probably just flies out to short," Thielbar said. "Especially in that situation, you've got to keep the game close. I didn't really do that, didn't give us a chance in the last two or three innings. Hopefully I'll be put in the same situation tomorrow."
NOTES: Twins RHP PJ Walters accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Rochester. RHP Cole De Vries (sprained right elbow) has been placed on the DL by Rochester. ... Minnesota RHP Rich Harden (shoulder) could throwing batting practice this week. ... Twins RHP Nick Blackburn (wrist) gave up two runs and six hits over five innings in his third outing with the Gulf Coast League Twins.