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Associated Press, Published April 20 2012

Willingham extends hitting streak with key RBIs in Twins win

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Josh Willingham kept his hot stretch going with a hit at the perfect time.

Willingham extended his season-opening hitting streak to 14 games with a go-ahead three-run double and the Minnesota Twins beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 on Friday night.

“Another big night for our left fielder, what’s his name? ... Willingham,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said with a smile. “I seem to be calling that name out an awful lot. He’s fun to watch. He’s been on the baseball, that’s for sure.”

Willingham’s hit in the seventh off Joel Peralta puts him one away from tying Kirby Puckett’s team mark of hitting safely in 15 straight games to start the 1994 season.

“I was just battling,” Willingham said. “That was a 1-2 count. I was looking for anything. I was trying to see the ball out of his hand. Just reacted to the fastball.”

The Twins also got two RBIs from Joe Mauer, who went 2-for-3 with two walks. Mauer is 31-for-70 overall at Tropicana Field.

“For whatever reason I see the ball pretty good here,” Mauer said. “So hopefully I can continue that the next couple days.”

Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce homered for the Rays. Longoria had a homer and four RBIs in Tampa Bay’s 9-4 win Thursday night at Toronto.

“They just beat us,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “They got the hit that they needed, we did not and they won. So we just have to move on.”

After Tampa Bay tied it with a run on Carlos Pena’s bases-loaded double-play grounder in the sixth, Longoria gave Tampa Bay a 4-2 lead with a two-run shot off Liam Hendriks.

“That’s the way that guy is,” Gardenhire said of Longoria. “You make a mistake and he kills it, and he did.”

Mauer had put the Twins ahead 2-0 on RBI singles in the first and fifth.

“We’re never out of it until the 27th out is recorded,” Mauer said. “It’s a big difference between this year and last year. Guys keep fighting, keep swinging the bats and that’s what you got to do.”

Minnesota Tampa Bay

ab r h bi ab r h bi

Span cf 5 2 2 0 Jnnngs lf 4 1 1 0

JCarrll ss 3 2 2 0 Zobrist 2b 2 0 0 0

Mauer dh 3 0 2 2 C.Pena 1b 4 0 0 0

Wlngh lf 4 0 1 3 Longori 3b 3 1 1 2

Valenci 3b 5 0 1 0 Scott dh 4 0 0 0

Doumit c 4 0 0 0 Joyce rf 4 1 2 1

Plouffe rf 3 0 1 0 BUpton cf 3 0 0 0

CThms rf 0 0 0 0 Gimenz c 3 0 0 0

Parmel 1b 4 0 1 0 SRdrgz ss 3 1 1 0

ACasill 2b 4 1 1 0

Totals 35 5 11 5 Totals 30 4 5 3

Minnesota 100 010 300— 5

Tampa Bay 000 013 000— 4

E—Doumit (1). DP—Minnesota 1, Tampa Bay 3. LOB—Minnesota 9, Tampa Bay 2. 2B—J.Carroll (3), Willingham (4). HR—Longoria (3), Joyce (4). SB—Span (2), J.Carroll (1). CS—Longoria (1).

IP H R ER BB SO

Minnesota

Hendriks 5Xc 5 4 4 2 1

Maloney W,1-0 1 0 0 0 0 0

Burton H,3 1 0 0 0 1 1

Duensing H,2 Zc 0 0 0 0 1

Capps S,4-4 1 0 0 0 0 0

Tampa Bay

M.Moore 6Zc 8 3 3 3 2

B.Gomes L,0-1 0 1 2 2 1 0

Jo.Peralta BS Xc 1 0 0 0 0

Badenhop 2 1 0 0 2 2

B.Gomes pitched to 2 batters in the 7th.

WP—Hendriks.

T—3:09. A—18,763 (34,078).