MINNEAPOLIS — Byron Buxton had his second straight two-homer game, and the Minnesota Twins sent another quality opposing starting pitcher to an early exit, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 9-4 on Friday night.
Buxton has gone deep five times in the past three days and moved up to second place in the major leagues with 17 homers in just 43 games. Carlos Correa set up a two-run shot in the eighth inning for the Twins, who have had more than eight runs in five of their last seven games.
Randy Arozarena and Vidal Bruján hit homers for the seventh consecutive time for the Rays and Isaac Paredes went deep in the second against Twins starter Devin Smeltzer (3-0), who conceded just one other hit over more than six innings and retired 10 straight bats at one point.
Arozarena’s home run was a drive in the park, the Rays’ second of the season after Kevin Kiermaier’s on May 24.
Drew Rasmussen (5-3) made his worst of 12 starts for Tampa Bay this year by hitting seven three-stroke shutout innings in his final round. He was burdened with seven carries on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings, although three carries went unearned thanks to a fielding error in the fifth inning by first baseman Harold Ramírez.
Ray’s starters had allowed two runs or fewer in 20 of their last 26 games.
The twins just managed to beat New York standouts Jameson Taillon, Nestor Cortes and Gerrit Cole earlier this week despite winning just one of those three games.
After a 10-7 loss to the Yankees on Thursday night and the disheartening pregame news that top contender Royce Lewis needed another ACL surgery, the Twins needed a pick-me-up. Buxton and Smeltzer certainly delivered.
Buxton’s second homer came from a half swing, no less, which managed to travel into the bullpen behind left center. His first was undoubtedly a trip to the upper deck. This was his eighth game of multi-homers and the fourth player in Twins history to do so in consecutive games. Eddie Rosario, Kirby Puckett and Don Mincher were the others.
WE WANT RANDY!
The young, boisterous crowd in the left-hand stand spent much of the game taunting Arozarena, who was closest to their seats, by chanting his first name and interjecting a few “We want Randy!” verses The seemingly good-natured razzing continued when Arozarena batted in the seventh, right before his homer in the park.
Gordon, playing in midfield and Buxton’s turn as designated batsman, had a chance to catch him as he tried to camp under the high fly on the stretch, but the ball escaped his outstretched glove and bounced towards flatter Mid, as Arozarena sped around the bases.
The twins hosted a Buxton giveaway for this game – not a jersey or bobblehead, but a 2022-friendly, non-fungible token. This was the first such promotion for the team to include the digital collectible, or NFT, and included images of Buxton’s signature and individual notation of game information and seat for each ticket holder.
Rays: More bad news came ahead of the game when Tommy John’s elbow surgery was ruled out for reliever Andrew Kittredge at the end of the season and, in a lesser blow, catcher Mike Zunino was put on the injured list with a shoulder infection. Both players were 2021 All-Stars.
Gemini: The rotation should get a big boost next week with the return of RHPs Sonny Gray (chest strain) and Joe Ryan (COVID-19), manager Rocco Baldelli said. Both pitchers are expected to start in Seattle on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Rays: RHP Shane Baz will start the middle game of the series on his 2022 debut. He was on the 60-day injured list and was recovering from arthroscopic elbow surgery on March 21. The 2017 first-round draft pick made three starts as a rookie last season.
Gemini: The starting pitcher for Saturday afternoon is “a real TBD to the last minute,” Baldelli said. The Twins plan to make it an all-bullpen game with seven starting pitchers sidelined on one of the injured lists.