Nearly three weeks ago, the Twins could score only two runs — on bases-loaded walks — to squeak by the White Sox; melted in the Wrigley Field sauna against the Cubs; then were shut down by the Brewers over the July 4th holiday.
They lost eight of nine on the road trip and fell 13 games under .500. Manager Paul Molitor gave daily “find a way” speeches about how his team needed to respond. The response from the front office was to be sellers before the July 31 trade deadline.
On Friday, the Twins scored eight runs over the first three innings, wilted some in the middle innings as Jake Odorizzi struggled but held on to beat Tampa Bay 11-8.
The Twins have won the first two games of the four-game series, and they have won their third game in a row.
And, most noticeably, they have won eight of their past nine games — canceling out the mauling by Lake Michigan.
The Twins are back to six games under .500, and more is needed if they are going to change the minds of the decision-makers.
“I think we all think this homestand was much needed,” Molitor said, “and it was timely coming off the heels of one of the worst trips I’ve experienced in terms of finding ways to win.”
Joe Mauer was 2-for-3 with a home run and four RBI. Jake Cave was 3-for-4 and a homer shy of the cycle. All nine Twins hitters reached base, with eight scoring.
The Twins have outscored opponents 57-33 during the nine-game romp at Target Field.
“The Twins had a real good approach,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said, “and they weren’t missing anything.”
They jumped all over Rays righthander Nathan Eovaldi in the first inning. Six hits later, including a triple by Jorge Polanco, the Twins led 4-0 and Eovaldi had thrown 30 pitches. It was the second night in a row a Tampa Bay pitcher had thrown 30 pitches in the opening inning.
The Rays scored a run in the third, but the Twins answered with more bludgeoning in the bottom of the inning. Cave, who has an eight game hitting streak, drove in Polanco with a double to left. Mauer batted with two on and drilled a center-cut fastball 427 feet to straightaway center for his third homer of the year and an 8-1 Twins lead.
It was set up for Odorizzi to sail against his former team. But the Rays scored a run in the fourth then Jake Bauers blasted a three-run homer in the fifth. The Rays added one more run in the inning to close to 8-6.
Odorizzi lasted only 4⅓ innings, giving up five earned runs. It was the fifth time this season he failed to pitch at least five innings — but he picked the right night to struggle.
“Everyone wants to go out and do their job, contribute,” he said. “It’s nice when you don’t do yours everybody does theirs and they contribute for a win.”
Matt Duffy’s RBI single in the sixth got Tampa Bay within 8-7. But the Twins scored twice in the sixth and added a run in the seventh to hold off Tampa Bay.
“It was one of those games where you had to keep scoring,” Molitor said. “You didn’t know what the final score was going to be to be enough, but we got enough to get it done. Try to keep it rolling.”