MINNEAPOLIS — Kyle Gibson struck out nine batters over eight easy innings for the Minnesota Twins, who handed Tampa Bay ace Blake Snell his shortest start of the season and beat the Rays 5-1 on Thursday night after a two-hour rain delay.
Eddie Rosario hit a two-run homer in the seventh against reliever Chih-Wei Hu for more cushion, but Gibson (4-6) was already well in control on his way to consecutive wins for the first time this year. The right-hander gave up five hits without a walk, and only one run on a sacrifice fly by Kevin Kiermaier in the eighth.
Fernando Rodney relieved Ryan Pressly in the ninth to get the last two outs and his 21st save, preserving the seventh victory in eight games for the Twins. The Rays had their five-game winning streak stopped.
Snell (12-5) was pulled after just three innings, throwing only 43 of his 75 pitches for strikes. The lefty took the second-lowest ERA in the American League into the game, with just two runs allowed over his last 28 2/3 innings while winning each of his last four turns. Snell was in trouble every inning, though, and found himself trailing 3-0 after back-to-back RBI doubles by Robbie Grossman and Jorge Polanco in the third.
The Twins hustled through that inning. Brian Dozier singled and took second on a wild pitch. Then as he attempted to steal third, Grossman swung at a high pitch for an awkward-but-effective hit-and-run. Polanco later stole third base, too, though he was ultimately stranded.
Gibson took it from there, continuing his renaissance with his longest start on the 2018 ledger. He lowered his ERA to 3.42, the best of his six major league seasons. The 2009 first-round draft pick has by far the best strikeout rate of his career, too, just short of an average of one per inning.
“It’s something we’ve looked for out of him for a long time,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said before the game. “I think he probably has more confidence in some of his pitches and has improvement in some of his pitches.”
The Rays sent rookie shortstop Willy Adames, one of the organization’s top prospects, back to Triple-A Durham before the game. There’s a playing-time pinch in the infield, and Adames has been struggling at the plate. Manager Kevin Cash said the demotion “was a really hard decision” for the team.
“We thought we were going to be able to do a better job of creating a lane,” Cash said.
The Rays used the roster spot to recall Hu, acquired in a trade with the Twins for reliever Kevin Jepsen in 2015.
Rays: SS Christian Arroyo wasn’t deemed ready to come off the DL to replace Adames. Arroyo is on a rehab assignment for a strained left oblique.
Twins: DH-1B Logan Morrison was put on the DL for a nagging hip problem that he expects won’t require more than the minimum 10-day stay. “It’s been manageable and still is manageable,” he said. “Just need to take a step back and use the break as some time without missing games.”
Rays: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (3-3, 3.35 ERA) pitches the second game of the series, coming off a stellar start against the Mets last weekend when he retired his first 18 batters and finished with only one hit allowed, no runs and nine strikeouts in seven innings.
Twins: RHP Jake Odorizzi (4-6, 4.28 ERA) takes the mound on Friday night, facing his former team for the first time. Odorizzi, traded to the Twins in February, pitched six scoreless innings in his last turn against the Orioles for his first win in 11 starts.