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The Sports Xchange, Published April 24 2014

Twins win first series at Tropicana since 2006

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – After a 12-inning game that lasted nearly five hours Wednesday night, the Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins knew they would need as many innings as possible out of their starting pitchers Thursday afternoon.

But left-hander Erik Bedard could only give the Rays four innings, and their worn-down bullpen couldn’t stop the Twins lineup as Minnesota captured a 9-7 win over Tampa Bay.

With the win, the Twins (11-10) secured their first series victory at Tropicana Field since Sept. 4-6, 2006.

Twins starter Ricky Nolasco struggled in the second inning and wound up allowing six runs on 10 hits. But Minnesota got six innings out of Nolasco (2-2, 6.67 ERA), and the recently untouchable Twins bullpen held on, surviving the Rays’ late rally.

“I thought I did a decent job,” Nolasco said. “Look at the line, it’s a lot worse than it should be.”

“He gave us everything he had,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Pretty good performance, really, against this ball club in this ballpark.”

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, was forced to put the game in the hands of its overworked bullpen from the fifth inning on.

The Rays’ patchwork rotation, now without three of its stars in Alex Cobb, Matt Mooreand Jeremy Hellickson, has lasted five innings or less in eight of their last 10 games, forcing the bullpen to pick up 44Zc innings during that stretch.

Bedard added to that total Thursday by quickly running up his pitch count in the first inning, making it somewhat impressive that he even got through the fourth.

“You’ve got to get the best out of the people that we have. I still have a lot of confidence in these guys,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Hopefully it’s not much longer, but as long as it needs to, if they’re the best guys that you have to do it, then you’ve got to keep going and keep supporting them.”

With the Rays trailing by a run and Bedard (0-1, 7.45) done for the day, relieverHeath Bell began the fifth inning by hitting a batter then gave up two hits before serving up a three-run blast to outfielder Aaron Hicks. Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki drove in another run in the sixth off Bell – this time literally, as his line drive bounced off the reliever’s leg and allowed third baseman Trevor Plouffe to score.

“I just didn’t execute pitches. That’s what happens when you don’t execute pitches to a major league team,” said Bell, who allowed five runs in a game for the first time since Sept. 26, 2006. “The Twins are a really good hitting team. I feel behind, didn’t execute pitches down and they hit me.”

Rays first baseman James Loney drove in a run in the sixth, and a pair of sacrifice flies from center fielder Desmond Jennings and left fielder Matt Joyce brought the Rays within three runs. Logan Forsythe knocked a pinch-hit RBI single to center field in the eighth to further narrow the gap.

But with the bases loaded and a two-run deficit in the eighth inning, Jennings popped out on a first-pitch fastball from reliever Jared Burton. Twins closer Glen Perkins then converted his fifth save in six opportunities with a perfect ninth inning.

Minnesota’s bullpen only allowed one run on three hits and two walks in three innings on Thursday. Over their last 13 games, the Twins relief corps has posted a 1.30 ERA in 41Xc innings.

“We got out (ahead) early and you knew it was going to be one of those kind of games,” Gardenhire said. “You never feel safe, so we basically threw everything at them we had.”

MIN ab r h bi TB ab r h bi

Dozier 2b 3 2 1 0 Zobrist 2b 4 0 3 0

Mauer 1b 5 1 2 0 Jnnings cf 4 0 0 1

Plouffe 3b 5 1 2 1 Joyce lf 3 1 2 1

Colbllo rf 5 0 0 0 Rodrguz ph 1 0 0 0

Hrrmann rf 1 0 0 0 Longori 3b 5 1 1 0

Pinto dh 3 2 0 0 Loney 1b 5 1 2 2

Suzuki c 4 1 3 3 Myers rf 4 0 1 0

Fuld lf 5 1 3 2 DeJesus dh 3 2 1 2

Hicks cf 3 1 1 3 Escobar ss 2 1 1 0

Flormon ss 5 0 0 0 Molina c 3 1 1 0

Forsyth ph 1 0 1 1

Hanigan c 0 0 0 0

Totals 39 9 12 9 Totals 35 7 13 7

Minnesota 310 041 000 — 9

Tampa Bay 030 001 210 — 7

E—K.Suzuki 1. LOB—Tampa Bay 7, Minnesota 13. 2B—Fuld 2 (3), Joyce (7), Loney (8), Longoria (5), Plouffe (9). HR—DeJesus (1), A.Hicks (1). SB—Dozier (6), Joyce (1).

IP H R ER BB SO

Minnesota

Nolasco W, 2-2 6 10 6 6 2 1

Thielbar Xc 1 0 0 0 0

Tonkin H, 2 Zc 0 0 0 0 0

Burton H, 3 1 2 1 1 2 2

Perkins S, 5 1 0 0 0 0 2

Tampa Bay

Bedard L, 0-1 4 5 4 4 5 3

H.Bell 1 Xc 5 5 5 0 0

Oviedo 1 Zc 1 0 0 2 2

Lueke 1 0 0 0 1 0

McGee 1 1 0 0 0 2

Inherited runners-scored—Thielbar 2-2, Tonkin 1-0, Oviedo 1-0. HBP—Pinto (by H.Bell), K.Suzuki (by Lueke).

Umpires—Home, Ted Barrett; First, Will Little; Second, Paul Schrieber; Third, Mark Carlson.

T—3:42. A—13,177 (42,735)