Sluggish offense costs the Twins in 1-run loss to Rays

Published 2:30 am Thursday, July 11, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The failure to get a big hit cost the Minnesota Twins again.

Ben Zobrist hit an RBI single with two outs in the 13th inning and the Tampa Bay Rays won their season-best seventh straight game, beating the Twins 4-3 Wednesday night.

Minnesota has lost 10 of 11, including four straight. The Twins went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and have been successful just three times in 27 chances during the first three games of the four-game series.

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“A long night,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “A lot of missed opportunities. We missed so many opportunities to drive in a run as they did.”

The Twins struck out 19 times.

“We chased a lot of pitches,” Gardenhire said. “They figured it out pretty quick that we were swinging at two strikes in the dirt. We chased I don’t know how many balls in the dirt. A ton. Guys are trying to do too much. Stay within yourself. They’ve got some pretty good pitchers over there that throw some nasty stuff up there.”

Zobrist lined a 1-2 pitch from Ryan Pressly (2-1) into the gap in right-center field, ending a 4-hour, 47-minute game.

“It was up,” Pressly said. “Definitely not where I wanted to throw that pitch. He hit a hanging breaking ball.”

Tampa Bay climbed to a season-best 12 games over .500.

The Rays also improved to 9-1 in a stretch of 14 consecutive games against the Twins, Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros — teams with the three worst records in the American League.

Cesar Ramos (2-2) got two outs, escaping a jam with runners at first and third in the 13th to get the win.

Yunel Escobar singled with one out in the 13th and took second with two outs on Pressly’s errant pickoff throw. After Luke Scott walked on a full count, Zobrist singled.

Pedro Florimon hit a two-run, third-inning homer and Clete Thomas had a RBI single in the fifth to give the Twins a 3-1 lead against Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson.

Kelly Johnson’s two-run homer off Minnesota starter Kevin Correia made it 3-all in the sixth.

The Twins wasted opportunities to take the lead in the ninth and 11th. They failed to take advantage of a pair of singles to begin the ninth against closer Fernando Rodney, and let reliever Jamey Wright off the hook when Oswaldo Arcia grounded out to strand runners at second and third base in the 11th.

Arcia also couldn’t get the potential go-ahead run home in the 13th, striking out after Joe Mauer singled and moved to third on Ryan Doumit’s two-out single.

“He was just swinging out of the zone,” Gardenhire said. “Going a little crazy there. A young kid trying to do too much. Trying to hit an eight-run homer with one guy out there. All we need is one guy in, and he’s swinging like a mad man. The last time the ball wasn’t even in the zone. Just getting a little out of whack, that’s what happens with kids. You’ve got to live with it.”

Tampa Bay nearly won it in the 10th. Wil Myers singled with two outs, and running on a 3-2 pitch would have scored easily from first base on Johnson’s line drive that Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks leaped to catch before crashing into the wall.

Hellickson had won four consecutive starts, matching the longest streak of his career, before Wednesday night. The 26-year-old right-hander allowed three runs, six hits and struck out eight in six innings.

Correia limited the Rays to three singles and Escobar’s second-inning sacrifice fly until James Loney singled to open the sixth. Johnson, in the lineup because of a history of success against the Minnesota starter, followed with his fifth home run in 25 career at-bats against Correia.

The game ended at 11:59 p.m., 12 hours, 11 minutes before the scheduled start time for Thursday’s series finale.

NOTES: Johnson went 2 for 3 against Correia and is 9 for 25 lifetime against the right-hander. … Florimon’s homer was his first since June 9 at Washington. … Tampa Bay RHP Alex Cobb, out since being hit in the right ear by a line drive on June 15, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Thursday. … Minnesota 1B Justin Morneau singled in the ninth for his 1,276th career hit, tying Gary Gaetti for seventh on the Twins’ career list. … The Twins have lost eight in a row to the Rays.