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Bats stay hot as Twins keep rolling vs. Rays

Minnesota has won 8 of 9 to creep back into contention
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- It wasn't always pretty, as they nearly blew a seven-run lead, but the offense kept adding on and it led to yet another win for the suddenly rolling Twins, who have bounced back to win eight of nine at home after going 1-8 on their previous road trip.

Joe Mauer and Jake Cave led the offense, with Mauer hitting a three-run homer and driving in four runs and Cave falling a homer short of the cycle, to lift the Twins to an 11-8 win over the Rays on Friday night. It appears the Twins are doing their best to avoid being sellers at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, as they've been creeping back into contention, trailing the first-place Indians by 7 1/2 games.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- It wasn't always pretty, as they nearly blew a seven-run lead, but the offense kept adding on and it led to yet another win for the suddenly rolling Twins, who have bounced back to win eight of nine at home after going 1-8 on their previous road trip.

Joe Mauer and Jake Cave led the offense, with Mauer hitting a three-run homer and driving in four runs and Cave falling a homer short of the cycle, to lift the Twins to an 11-8 win over the Rays on Friday night. It appears the Twins are doing their best to avoid being sellers at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, as they've been creeping back into contention, trailing the first-place Indians by 7 1/2 games.

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"I just think that things in this game can be really contagious," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It seems if you get a couple guys going it's just one of those things where the pressure kind of comes off. And some of the guys who have been a little hit and miss through the first stage of the year are putting it together and you see a lot of number climbing in the right direction throughout the homestand. And it was just one of those games where we had to fight them off."

Minnesota knocked Rays starter Blake Snell from the game after just three innings in Thursday's win, and fared even better against right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who entered with a 3.35 ERA, but departed after 2 2/3 innings and a 4.49 ERA.

Video: TB@MIN: Polanco slams an RBI triple off the wall

"We got up early, some big hits," Molitor said. "We knocked out another good pitcher, which was really good to see."

The Twins knocked around Eovaldi from the start, scoring four runs in the first on six hits, including an RBI triple from Jorge Polanco and RBI singles from Max Kepler and Cave. Of the six hits, all registered at least 93.3 mph off the bat, per Statcast™.

"He throws the ball hard and we knew he has good stuff, but we also knew he was someone you can get to sometimes," Cave said. "That's what we did tonight. Guys start hitting and feeding off that and that's how you win ball games."

Minnesota added four more runs in the third against Eovaldi, keyed by Mauer's three-run homer that hit the base of the batter's eye in center field. Cave also had an RBI double to score Polanco earlier in the inning.

Video: TB@MIN: Cave plates Polanco on double to left

But the Rays nearly made a comeback, as right-hander Jake Odorizzi scuffled against his former team, allowing six runs (five earned) over 4 1/3 innings to fail to get the win. Odorizzi fell apart in the fifth, surrendering four runs, including a three-run homer to Jake Bauers, who had a homer overturned by replay the previous inning. He left after hitting Joey Wendle with a pitch, and Wendle came around to score on a double from C.J. Cron.

"It's one of those outings where you hang with them," Odorizzi said. "You make certain pitches and you don't get the results you want. Personally, it's frustrating for me but I have a break to reset and have a good second half because I haven't thrown the ball the way I'm capable in the first half."

Video: TB@MIN: Odorizzi K's Hechavarria to retire the side

The Rays made it a one-run game with an RBI single from Matt Duffy in the sixth, but Matt Belisle came in and got two strikeouts to get out of the inning. Trevor Hildenberger struck out the side in the seventh to get the win.

The Twins kept adding on, scoring twice in the sixth with Eduardo Escobar plating Brian Dozier with an RBI single and scoring on a double from Robbie Grossman. Cave helped add an insurance run with a leadoff triple in the eighth and scored on a sacrifice fly from Mauer.

"They put up six unanswered runs and we had to find a way to counter, which we did," Molitor said. "And so it was one of those games where you had to keep scoring. 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."

SOUND SMART
Cave, Dozier and Mauer are all riding hitting streaks this homestand, as Dozier's streak is at eight, while Cave and Mauer are both at seven games. Cave is hitting .520, while Mauer is batting .448 and Dozier is hitting .355.

"I feel good," Cave said. "I'm not trying to think about the numbers at all. I'm just trying to go up there every at-bat trying to compete. When you compete and play the game the right way, good things happen. That's the way I've always felt, and that's what's happening right now."

Video: TB@MIN: Cave hits an RBI single in the 1st inning

HE SAID IT
"There were some stretches there where it wasn't the Twins brand of baseball. The road trip before this homestand, it was on us. Are we going to turn this around? Or are we gonna roll over and disassemble this? But I think everyone has responded the right way." -- Odorizzi, on the Twins bouncing back this homestand

UP NEXT
All-Star right-hander Jose Berrios (9-7, 3.41 ERA) will make his final start of the first half when he takes the mound against the Rays on Saturday at 1:10 p.m. CT at Target Field. Berrios, a first-time All-Star, is coming off a strong start against the Royals, allowing one run over seven innings with eight strikeouts. The Rays counter with veteran Chris Archer (3-4, 4.41 ERA).

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins