MINNEAPOLIS -- Pennant races are supposed to be fun, aren't they? Because the ones that have passed through Target Field this week have been no different than the spirit-dampening rain that came and went on Saturday night: They just make life miserable for the Twins.
Minnesota lost its fourth straight game on Saturday, waiting out a two-hour rain delay to do it, and as has happened throughout much of this homestand, the game never seemed particularly competitive. The final score was Tampa Bay 7, Minnesota 0, meaning the Twins have yet to score a run on the Rays in the series.
Oh, and reigning Cy Young winner David Price pitches Sunday.
"Same old story," said a disgusted-sounding manager Ron Gardenhire. "Those guys are playing for something over there -- they're into the games. We didn't look like we are really getting after it too much, and I guess the weather really bothered us more. Which is disappointing."
One suspects it's infuriating, too, but Gardenhire kept his emotions in check. He pointed out that the Twins, who have now lost 11 straight games to Tampa Bay, were competitive when the teams met in St. Petersburg in July; the Rays swept those four games by a cumulative score of 19-11.
Oh, for the days of sunny weather and close losses. The Twins beat Oakland, 4-3, on Tuesday, but in the four games since then, they have been outscored 36-5 by playoff contenders from Oakland and Tampa Bay. The only bright side of Saturday's loss: Fewer than 2,000 fans were around at the end to witness it, chased off by a steady rain that delayed play midway through the fourth inning, and by a Twins offense that rarely even threatens to score. Only one Twin reached third base on Saturday, but that's one more than managed it on Friday.
The Twins have gone 36 innings without scoring more than one run, which actually understates the offensive stupor: They've gone 19 innings without scoring any.
"It's not easy. But they've got to play in the same thing we do," Gardenhire said of the chilly, wet conditions. "We have no excuse. We didn't play worth a flip, and they did."
Matt Moore was the Rays' starter on Saturday, and OK, lots of teams have trouble scoring on him. The lefthander is 15-3, after all, and has an ERA of 0.61 in September. But Moore only pitched three innings, his likely 16th victory lost when a steady rain interrupted play with the Rays leading 4-0. The Twins also couldn't score off of Brandon Gomes, and Wesley Wright, and Jamey Wright, and Roberto Hernandez, and Cesar Ramos. The Rays' pen pitched the final six innings, with the same effectiveness as Moore.
Andrew Albers started for the Twins, but the anticipated matchup of lefthanders never developed. Albers, who didn't allow a run over seven innings in his last start, wasn't sharp in this one, giving up four runs on six hits over four innings. He, too, didn't return after the rains finally slacked off after two hours and four minutes, but he'd already tacked another half run on to his ERA, which now stands at 3.81 despite three scoreless outings in his eight starts.
The Rays' first run included some luck, but good teams always seem to be luckier than bad ones. In this case, rookie Wil Myers punched a soft liner just over first baseman Chris Colabello's head, and it landed an inch or two inside the foul line for a double. Handed the gift, the Rays took advantage by moving Myers to third on a ground out, and bringing him home on a sacrifice fly.
Evan Longoria made it 2-0 in the third with an RBI double, and three straight singles in the fourth, followed by another sacrifice fly, made the score 4-0 just as the rain turned heavy.
"They're a good team. They find ways to win ballgames," Gardenhire said. "That's why they're in a pennant race. We're just overmatched right now."
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