MINNEAPOLIS — Eduardo Nunez‘s leadoff inside-the-park homer was a sign of things to come for the Twins, as they pounded out a season-high 15 hits in a 6-4 win over the Rays on Thursday night at Target Field.
Nunez’s homer came in the first off Rays lefty Matt Moore, while Brian Dozier smacked a solo homer in the fifth and had two RBIs. Byung Ho Park had his first three-hit game in the Majors, scoring two runs, while fellow rookie Max Kepler drove in the first two runs of his career. All nine Twins batters had at least one hit, while the bottom five hitters in the order combined to go 10-for-19 with three RBIs and three runs scored.
“It was great to have a game like that offensively,” Nunez said. “We haven’t had a lot of games like that this year. Hopefully that starts today with a game like that. I think we were more comfortable after the bad series in Oakland. We just wanted to turn the page and do our thing.”
Evan Longoria paced the offense for the Rays with an RBI single in the third and a two-run homer in the fifth that knocked Twins right-hander Phil Hughes from the game. Logan Morrison also had an RBI single in the third.
Hughes, who started on short notice after Kyle Gibson was scratched, lasted four-plus innings, allowing four runs on eight hits. Moore also struggled, surrendering four runs on eight hits and two walks in five innings. Lefty Taylor Rogers picked up the win for the Twins with two scoreless frames in relief of Hughes. Closer Kevin Jepsen picked up the save against his former team with a scoreless ninth.
“I don’t really know what to say,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash after his team lost for the seventh time in eight games. “We’re just going to continue to battle. We’re in a tough spot right now. We’re trying to grind through it and it’s just not happening right now.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Nunez makes history: Nunez became the first Twins player to hit an inside-the-park homer at Target Field and the 50th to do it in franchise history. He was also the first Twins player to lead off the first with an inside-the-parker since the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961. The last player in the Majors to do it was Eric Young Jr. in 2012. Nunez ran the bases in 15.23 seconds, which was the fastest time recorded by Statcast™ this year. More >
“I never thought about the homer,” Nunez said. “I was looking for third all the way. If you look at the video, I was slowing down. But when I saw [third-base coach Gene Glynn], I thought, ‘Oh my God. I need to get going.’ But I never thought about it being a homer.”
“The play in the first, that’s an error,” Cash said of Nunez’s home run. “Nothing on [right-fielder] Brandon Guyer, he’s grinding it out, but that’s an error. He’s got to make that play.”
Longo hot: Longoria went 6-for-12 with three doubles during the Rays’ three-game stop in Kansas City. He kept his foot on the accelerator Thursday night against the Twins with an RBI single in the third and a two-run homer — his 10th of the season, in the fifth.
Dozier hits one out, gets hit: Dozier tied the score with a solo blast to left in the fifth off Moore for his sixth homer of the year, and his first since May 25. He came up to the plate with the bases loaded in the sixth after the Rays opted to intentionally walk Joe Mauer and was hit by a pitch to give the Twins the lead.
Ramirez continues to struggle: Erasmo Ramirez had been the Rays’ early-season MVP, helping the team escape one jam after the next. Seemingly he could do no wrong. On Thursday night, he started the sixth inning with the score tied at 4 and he allowed a go-ahead run. The outing could have been worse had he not been rescued by an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play with the bases loaded. Ramirez’s last nine appearances tell the story of magic lost. In eight of those appearances, the righty gave up runs. All told, he allowed 11 earned runs in 12 innings for an 8.25 ERA.
“It was fun. It was a good experience. It’s something I’ll never forget. No BBQ [sauce] this time, I think it was tomato. But it was a fun night.” — Rogers, who received a tomato sauce shower from his teammates after getting his first big league win
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Moore was lifted after the fifth inning. Since returning from Tommy John surgery on July 2, 2015, the left-hander has pitched five innings or fewer 14 times in 23 starts. More >
Rays: Jake Odorizzi (2-3, 3.36 ERA) will try and keep things simple when he makes his 12th start of the season on Friday against the Twins at 8:10 p.m. ET. The right-hander didn’t try to do too much against the Yankees on Sunday and had his best performance of the season in taking a 2-1 loss.
Twins: Right-hander Ricky Nolasco (2-3, 5.28) is set to start against the Rays on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Nolasco is coming off a solid outing, as he limited the Mariners to two runs over six innings, while also showing his best fastball velocity of the season.