July 5, 2008
Small-market Rays, Twins are rolling
Minnesota Twins’ Justin Morneau (33) and Delmon Young celebrate at home plate after Young hit a three-run home run against the Cleveland Indians in the third inning Friday.
Move over, Yankees and Red Sox. Out of the way, White Sox. A couple of small-market clubs are showing the big boys how to play.
Edwin Jackson took a two-hitter into the eighth inning and Carlos Pena homered and drove in five runs Friday night, helping the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays beat the Kansas City Royals 11-2 for their fifth straight victory.
Not to be outdone, Delmon Young hit a three-run homer and had a season-high four RBIs, and Nick Punto homered and drove in four runs to help the Minnesota Twins beat the Cleveland Indians 12-3 for their 14th win in 16 games.
The surprising Rays remained three games ahead of the Boston Red Sox in the division, after their newfound rivals beat the New York Yankees 6-4. The Twins climbed within a game of the AL Central-leading White Sox, who have dropped two in a row after a 7-1 loss to Oakland.
Young’s blast, combined with Punto’s solo homer in the first inning — his first since June 6 of last season — provided enough support for Livan Hernandez (9-5) and the Minnesota bullpen.
Punto added a three-run double in the eighth for the finishing blow.
Hernandez allowed home runs to Kelly Shoppach and Ben Francisco, but held the Indians to three runs on five hits over six innings.
“It’s nice to see different guys contribute,” Punto said. “Tonight it was me and Delmon, and Delmon’s starting to swing the bat real well. That’s the key to this team winning.”
The Indians, losers of six straight and last in the AL Central, cut closer Joe Borowski on Friday, saying goodbye to last season’s saves leader two days after he blew his fourth save in 10 chances in a loss to the White Sox.
“There are so many different things that happen over the course of a season that you have to handle, whether it be personally or on this ballclub, and you’ve got to be able to separate from that,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “You have to regain your focus and go out and play.”
Tampa Bay hasn’t had any problem staying focused.
After a three-game sweep of the Red Sox, the young Rays kept rolling with a little help from Pena, whose homer was his first in a month. He’d been on the disabled list with a broken finger until Sunday, and had been relatively quiet in the six games since.
“I feel great. My finger is feeling a lot better every day,” Pena said after going 2-for-4 to raise his batting average to .227 with 12 homers and 43 RBIs. “Any time you can contribute, your confidence gets a boost. That’s obviously what we all need.”
Jackson (5-6) matched his win total for last season, limiting the Royals to David DeJesus’ first-inning single and Mark Grudzielanek’s solo homer in the seventh before giving up two singles and an unearned run in the eighth.
Tampa Bay won for the ninth time in 10 games, and improved baseball’s best record to 53-32. Before this year, the Rays had never been more than four games over at any point in a season.
The Royals have lost five of seven. They contributed to Tampa Bay’s fifth straight win with three errors, three walks and a wild pitch that led to runs.
“We made it real easy,” Kansas City manager Trey Hillman said. “They’ve got a good club, obviously, with the best record. But we did a lot of things really poorly that made their job a little easier.”
Athletics 7, White Sox 1: At Chicago, Jack Cust hit a two-run homer and Joe Blanton pitched seven solid innings to send the White Sox to their second straight loss after winning seven straight.
Blanton (5-11) allowed one run and six hits, while Mark Buehrle (6-7) yielded four runs and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings for Chicago.
Angels 8, Blue Jays 2: At Anaheim, Calif., Jered Weaver recovered nicely from a history-making loss to the Dodgers last Saturday, allowing two runs and six hits in 7 1-3 innings.
The right-hander (8-8) finally got some run support after no-hitting the Dodgers in a 1-0 loss in which his error resulted in the only run.
A.J. Burnett (8-8) tied a career high by allowing eight runs for the fifth time in 195 big league starts — and the third time in his last six outings.
Mariners 4, Tigers 1: At Seattle, Raul Ibanez clanged a solo home run off the windows of a restaurant in right field and a pair of Seattle relievers helped finish what Erik Bedard started.
Jose Lopez added a key two-run double off Kenny Rogers (6-6) to help the Mariners win for the eighth time in 11 games. Ibanez’s 10th homer broke a 1-all tie in the fourth.
Bedard (6-4) went five innings. Brandon Morrow got four outs for his sixth save.
Orioles 10, Rangers 4: At Baltimore, Freddie Bynum tied a career high with three RBIs to lead the Orioles.
Vicente Padilla (10-5) allowed a career high-tying eight runs and nine hits in 2 2-3 innings, his shortest outing of the season.
Jeremy Guthrie (5-7) permitted four runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings for Baltimore.
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