Longo's big double helps Rays down Twins
Tampa Bay gets clutch hit from third baseman as Cobb earns win
MINNEAPOLIS -- Evan Longoria came through in the clutch, Alex Cobb looked like his old self and Ben Zobrist found his power stroke -- not a bad way to start the second half.
It all added up to a 6-2 Rays win over the Twins Friday night at Target Field.
"I was really impressed with our guys today, the game that we played after that many days off," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We pretty much picked up where we left off going into the All-Star break. It was a good game. I thought we played well."
The Rays have won three in a row while moving to 12-4 in their last 16 games. They are 21-11 since June 11. Prior to June 11, they had lost 14 of 15.
After two scoreless innings, the Rays loaded the bases with one out in the third. Matt Joyce popped out into foul territory on the first pitch he saw from Kyle Gibson, bringing Longoria to the plate. The Rays' slugger worked the count to 2-0 before driving a fastball deep to right-center field.
All of the runners scored and Longoria ended up on second base with a stand-up double after giving the Rays a 3-0 lead.
"I've really wanted to be presented with those opportunities and have success with them, because that's what, really, what can start to breed confidence and all the emotions you want to feel when you're in those and not the opposite," Longoria said.
The Rays might have scored again, but Longoria tried to score on James Loney's single through the middle that Brian Dozier managed to knock down. The Twins' second baseman quickly got to his feet and threw a strike to catcher Kurt Suzuki, who tagged out Longoria for the third out.
Trevor Plouffe answered for the Twins with two outs in the third when he hit a two-run homer off Cobb that traveled 378 feet before landing in the left-field stands, cutting the Rays' lead to 3-2.
Kevin Kiermaier led off the fifth inning by hitting a dribbler in front of home that Suzuki grabbed before quickly throwing to first. Kiermaier, who ran hard all the way, heard the verdict, turned to face the Rays' dugout and pointed up for a review. The call was overturned and the Rays took advantage. After Desmond Jennings sacrificed Kiermaier to second, Zobrist unloaded his seventh homer of the season, a 371-foot shot into the right-field stands for a 5-2 lead.
Zobrist is hitting .447 with three home runs and 16 RBIs in 11 career games at Target Field.
Cobb got into trouble in the sixth when the Twins put runners on first and second with two outs. Maddon decided to bring in Brad Boxberger to pitch to Sam Fuld at that point.
"Sam's got this flair for the dramatic, I know him way too well," Maddon said. "And I didn't like the idea of a tired Cobb pitching to him."
True to form, Fuld worked a 10-pitch walk to load the bases. Boxberger then quieted the storm by retiring Danny Santana on a groundout to end the inning.
"I owe Box a lot," Cobb said. "He's gotten me out of -- the whole starting staff owes Box a lot -- he's gotten us out of some really big jams. He's got some amazing stuff with the fastball going 95-plus and a devastating changeup."
Boxberger returned to pitch a scoreless seventh, striking out the side while doing so.
Cobb allowed two runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings to pick up his fifth win of the season. Throughout the first half, Cobb battled with his mechanics. He now feels like he's more in tune with his mechanics, but he didn't feel like he had his best stuff Friday night.
"The changeup was pretty much non-existent, the fastball had a little bit more life on it than normal, curveball was here and there," Cobb said. "I was able to get it over for some first pitch strikes. ... All in all just kind of a battling kind of night, just trying to get through it."
Joyce added an RBI single off Matt Guerrier in the seventh to push the Rays' lead to 6-2.
Grant Balfour retired the Twins in order in the eighth and Jake McGee followed suit in the ninth to nail down the win.
"[Cobb] threw the ball well against us," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "... Their bullpen came in, and you saw some of their arms in the bullpen, too. Pretty impressive."
And perhaps a new beginning for the surging Rays.
"It was a good start," Longoria said. "The point is that we won the game, and if we can continue to do the things that we've been doing, it's going to be a fun second half."