Rays ragged in ninth
Twins rally with five-run uprising
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - On a night Evan Longoria hit three home runs for Tampa Bay, an unlikely source of power upstaged the Rays' rookie slugger.
Alexi Casilla went deep during Minnesota's five-run ninth inning last night, helping the Twins rally for an 11-8 victory that stopped a four-game losing streak and pulled them within 1 1/2 games of the AL Central-leading White Sox.
Casilla's two-run drive off Dan Wheeler (5-6) tied it at 8. With two runners on, pinch-hitter Adam Everett squared to bunt, pulled his bat back, and ripped an RBI double to break the tie.
Delmon Young followed with a run-scoring single and Matt Tolbert added a sacrifice fly as the AL East-leading Rays lost for just the second time in 79 games when trailing after eight innings. Their division lead over the Red Sox was trimmed to 1 1/2 games.
"It's huge. There's no question," Everett said. "You've seen it from the beginning of September to now. We've had games snatched from us from the ninth inning on. For us to snatch a game away from a team like Tampa Bay and their pitching staff, that's huge for us."
Longoria, who returned to the lineup last Saturday after being sidelined with a broken wrist, hit a two-run homer in Tampa Bay's five-run first against Glen Perkins. The All-Star third baseman added solo shots off Philip Humber in the fourth and Bobby Korecky in the seventh for an 8-6 lead.
With a chance to tie the major league record of four homers, Longoria made the final out of the game by grounding back to Twins closer Joe Nathan, who pitched a spotless ninth for his 37th save.
Longoria joined Jonny Gomes as the only Rays to hit three home runs in a game in the club's 11-season history. Gomes also did it as a rookie, hitting three against Kansas City in 2005.
"Obviously, I'm pretty happy about my performance, but not the outcome," Longoria said.
"I expect us to bounce back. We've been doing it all along. Win or loss, it's pretty much 15 minutes of celebration or 15 minutes of having your head down and figuring out what you can do tomorrow to help the team."
The Rays can clinch at least a wild-card playoff berth as early as today if they beat the Twins, and the White Sox, Blue Jays, and Yankees all lose. They can also ensure their first postseason berth by winning two of the remaining three games in this series.
"I still like our position, absolutely," Wheeler said. "It's just a difficult one to swallow. That's all you can say."
Dioner Navarro and Carlos Peña also went deep as Minnesota allowed five home runs in a game for the second time in five days. The Twins have given up a major league-high 33 home runs in September, 18 over the past five games.
"We can't seem to keep the ball in the ballpark, and we didn't do a good job of it tonight," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But our guys never quit."