ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tampa Bay
Rays manager Joe Maddon admitted checking the out-of-town scoreboard and
liking what he saw.
Sean Rodriguez and B.J. Upton hit
three-run homers and Tampa Bay beat the Minnesota Twins 6-4 on Tuesday
night, winning for the 10th time in 11 games and taking over first place
in the AL East.
Rodriguez homered in the first inning. Upton put the Rays ahead 6-3 with his tiebreaking drive in the seventh.
Jeff Niemann (10-3) allowed three runs
and eight hits over seven innings. Tampa Bay moved one game ahead of
the New York Yankees, who lost to Toronto 8-2.
"Obviously it's nice," Maddon said.
"I'm looking at the scoreboard, I knew the Yankees had lost. Probably a
lot of the other guys did, too. We want to be in first place. We want to
win the division. Now it's up to us to maintain that position."
Tampa Bay last had sole possession of first place on June 12.
"It's always a good feeling, but there's still a lot of games left," Rodriguez said.
Rafael Soriano allowed an RBI single
to Joe Mauer in the ninth before recording his 31st save. Soriano felt
soreness after hitting his left knee on the ground covering first base
during the inning.
"It will be fine," he said.
Mauer was back in the starting lineup
and went 3-for-4 with three RBIs as the designated hitter. The reigning
American League MVP, dealing with tendinitis in his right shoulder, sat
out two straight games after receiving a cortisone shot in the shoulder
on Saturday. It has not been determined when Mauer will play behind the
"Just have to go day by day with him
and see how his arm feels," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said before
the game. "The one thing we want to do is make sure we give him plenty
of time to let his arm heal."
Minnesota got a homer from Drew Butera. Brian Duensing gave up three runs and four hits in six innings.
After pinch-hitters John Jaso and
Matt Joyce drew one-out walks from Matt Guerrier (1-6) in the seventh,
Upton hit his ninth homer of the season into the left-field seats.
"I can't lie, it felt pretty good," Upton said.
Guerrier is 0-3, allowing eight runs over two innings, in three games against Tampa Bay ths year.
Tampa Bay went ahead 3-1 in the first
on Rodriguez's three-run shot off Nick Blackburn, his first homer since
July 4. Rodriguez had just one RBI in his previous 14 games.
It was the first homer allowed by a Twins pitcher in 310 plate appearances.
Butera tied it at 3 with a solo homer in the seventh.
Mauer put the Twins up 1-0 on a first-inning RBI single. His RBI single in the third cut the Minnesota deficit to 3-2.
The Twins loaded the bases with one
out in the fifth, but failed to score. After Niemann intentionally
walked Mauer with runners on second and third, Delmon Young flied out
and Jason Kubel popped out.
"We had our chances," Gardenhire said. "They made pitches when they had to."
Young was hitless in five at-bats,
including a game-ending grounder with two in the ninth, and had his
12-game hitting streak end.
Minnesota 1B Justin Morneau,
out with a concussion since July 7, hit in a cage in Minnesota. "Had a
good day," Gardenhire said. … Tampa Bay INF-OF Ben Zobrist (lower back
stiffness) could be back in the lineup on Wednesday. … Twins INF
Orlando Hudson (strained right oblique) might return this weekend. …
Rays 1B Carlos Pena (right foot soreness) will have his status evaluated
Wednesday. The disabled list is still possible. … Tampa Bay LF Carl
Crawford grounded into just his second double play – coming in his 394th
at-bat – this season in the fifth.