MINNEAPOLIS - Randy Arozarena hit a tiebreaking home run for Tampa Bay with two outs in the ninth inning, helping the Rays beat the Minnesota Twins 5-4 on Wednesday heading into a weekend showdown with AL East leader Baltimore.
The Rays (90-57), who entered three games behind the Orioles in the division race, reached 90 wins for the ninth time in their last 15 full seasons. Tampa Bay starts a four-game series on Thursday at Baltimore, which played later at St. Louis.
Arozarena sent a 448-foot drive to the third deck above left field on a 3-2 sweeper from Griffin Jax (6-10), who leads the staff in losses. The AL Central-leading Twins (76-70) began the day with a 7½-game advantage on Cleveland, which played later at San Francisco.
Colin Poche walked pinch-hitter Jordan Luplow with one out in the ninth and pinch-runner Andrew Stevenson stole second base, but Robert Stephenson recorded his first save for the Rays by striking out pinch hitter Christian Vázquez to end the game.
Yandy Díaz, who was painfully forced out of Tuesday’s game with a bruised testicle, hit a two-run double in the second inning that Curtis Mead started with a triple. Mead added an RBI double in the third for a 4-0 lead against Dallas Keuchel.
Rays starter Taj Bradley gave up consecutive home runs to Matt Wallner and Kyle Farmer in the bottom half. Then Max Kepler hit a two-run triple with two outs in the fifth to tie the game.
Dylan Floro, Emily Pagán and Caleb Thielbar gave the Twins a combined four innings of sparkling relief. Jax was one strike from joining them on the scoreless list until Arozarena made him pay with his 21st homer this season.
Jax became the first Twins reliever with double-digit defeats since Ron Davis went 7-11 with 14 blown saves in 1984. Only five relievers have done that in team history. Mike Marshall has the club relief record with 14 losses in 1979.
MAKING HIM WORK
Farmer followed his homer with a 16-pitch at-bat — including 10 foul balls — that ended with a strikeout when he chased a curveball that dived well below the zone to start the fifth. But his effort might well have precipitated the rally.
Edouard Julien and Jorge Polanco followed with walks in a 33-pitch inning that Bradley didn’t even finish. Bradley, who slapped his glove on his left thigh in frustration after losing Polanco to the walk, only needed 47 pitches for the first four frames.
Rays: OF Manny Margot (elbow) has been progressing well on his rehab assignment, and there’s a chance he would return this weekend, manager Kevin Cash said. Margot’s 26-game absence has become more pronounced with the recent injury to CF Jose Siri (hand).
Twins: 3B Jose Miranda will have shoulder surgery on Thursday. The 25-year-old began the season as a regular, was sent to Triple-A in May and aggravated an injury in July that stemmed from spring training.
Rays: RHP Aaron Civale (7-3, 2.96 ERA) will pitch on Thursday to open the series in Baltimore. RHP Kyle Bradish (11-6, 3.03 ERA) takes the mound for the Orioles.
Twins: RHP Kenta Maeda (4-7, 4.65 ERA) starts on Thursday to begin a four-game series at Chicago. RHP José Ureña (0-5, 8.46 ERA) will pitch for the White Sox.