ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Despite hitting some baseballs hard, the Minnesota Twins again failed to produce much offensively.
Chris Archer pitched six strong innings, while Matt Joyce and Kelly Johnson drove in two runs apiece to help the surging Tampa Bay Rays extend their winning streak to a season-best six games with a 4-1 victory over the sputtering Twins on Tuesday night.
Minnesota has lost nine of 10 games, hitting just .231 and averaging 3.8 runs over the stretch.
"Offensively early, we were banging some balls pretty hard," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I thought we were hitting them on the screws at people, and their kid settled in there pretty decent. Did what he had to do, and got to the bullpen and they threw some really good arms at us there."
Archer (3-3) limited the Twins to an unearned run and three hits to outpitch fellow rookie Kyle Gibson (1-2), who was done in by one bad inning in his third career start for Minnesota.
Joyce drove in two runs with a two-out, bases-loaded single that snapped a scoreless tie in the fourth. Johnson followed with a two-run double to give Archer all the support he would need.
It was the second straight loss for Gibson, who beat Kansas City in his big league debut on June 29 before being roughed up five days later by the New York Yankees.
The 25-year-old right-hander limited the Rays to one baserunner through three innings, but ran into trouble after walking Desmond Jennings and Luke Scott to begin the fourth. James Loney drew a two-out walk to load the bases, and Joyce and Johnson followed with their big hits to dump the Twins into a 4-0 hole.
"I had my changeup going really well, and my sinker was moving pretty good," Gibson said. "Then I let it get away from me there in the fourth inning. Walked a guy that I'd been attacking all day. Worried about him too much on first base and walked the second guy. Then I had myself out of it after making a couple good pitches and just couldn't put Loney away. Loney is a good hitter and didn't chase. I didn't do a good enough job on 0-2 and 1-2 to put him away."
Gardenhire was happy to see Gibson rebound after the fourth with two good innings.
"That was important after giving up the runs like that," Gardenhire said. "He was a little frustrated, the three walks in the inning. One of them semi-pitching around, not trying to give in to Loney there. They got a couple big hits, but he came back and made some pitches when he had to, which is a good thing. He needed that, and we wanted to see that."
Gibson allowed four runs and four hits over six innings. He walked four and struck out three.
Meanwhile, Minnesota continued to struggle offensively.
After going 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position while losing Monday's series opener 7-4, the Twins failed to take advantage a couple of early opportunities against Archer. They were 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position in the first two innings, then didn't have another batter reached base until Brian Dozier was hit by a pitch leading off the sixth.
Archer's errant pickoff throw — Tampa Bay's first error in 10 games — allowed Dozier to advance to third before Doumit delivered his sacrifice fly.
The Rays starter yielded Joe Mauer's first-inning double and singles by Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee in the second. He retired 10 in a row before the Twins scored their only run without getting a hit, thanks to Dozier being hit by a pitch, Archer's two-base throwing error and Ryan Doumit's sacrifice fly.
Alex Torres, Jake McGee and Fernando Rodney each pitched a scoreless inning for the Rays, with Rodney getting the final three outs to finish a combined five-hitter and earn his 21st save.
The Twins had two hits after the second inning — singles by Mauer and Doumit leading off the ninth. Rodney struck out Justin Morneau, Plouffe and Oswaldo Arcia to end the game.
"We got him in a situation, but he made pitches when he had to," Gardenhire said.
NOTES: Minnesota has lost seven in a row to the Rays. ... Twins LHP Caleb Thielbar, whose grandmother died, will go on the bereavement list Thursday. He will rejoin the team this weekend and be eligible to pitch on Sunday against the New York Yankees. RHP Michael Tonkin will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to fill Thielbar's spot on the roster. ... Minnesota OF Josh Willingham (left knee) has started doing light exercises. ... Twins OF Wilkin Ramirez (concussion-like symptoms) is still having headaches. He has missed the past 40 games.