MLB Rays kick off tricky trip with three-game set at Minnesota

Fresh off an impressive three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Tampa Bay Rays will begin a nine-game trip with a three-game series against the American League Central-leading Minnesota Twins that starts Friday night in Minneapolis.

The Rays will follow with a three-game series against the AL East-leading Yankees before finishing with a three-game set against an Orioles team that took two of three games from Tampa Bay last month in Baltimore.

Right-hander Drew Rasmussen (5-2, 3.02 ERA), who is 0-0 with a 9.00 ERA in two career relief appearances vs. Minnesota, will make his first career start against the Twins on Friday. Left-hander Devin Smeltzer (2-0, 1.93) will make his first career start and appearance against the Rays.

Tampa Bay is 13-10 on the road this season and comes in with momentum after sweeping the Cardinals. The Rays rebounded after dropping two of three to the Chicago White Sox last weekend.

The Rays won the opener against St. Louis 4-2 in 10 innings Tuesday on a walk-off, three-run homer by Taylor Walls, then pounded out 18 hits in an 11-3 win. They finished the series with a 2-1 victory on Thursday as lefty Shane McClanahan (7-2) allowed just two hits over eight innings while striking out nine. Ji-Man Choi hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning.

“It was a big series,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said after Thursday’s game. “No doubt (there was) some frustration coming off the White Sox series here at home, and I liked the way the guys bounced back. (Walls’) walk-off homer was huge. It kind of took us to the next day where the offense busted loose. And then today … we found a way to get the big hit.”

The Twins come in off a tough 10-7 loss to the Yankees in the rubber game of their three-game series on Thursday night, blowing an early 7-3 lead in the finale.

Minnesota lost despite tying a major league record with back-to-back-to-back home runs by Luis Arraez, Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa to begin the game. The Twins hit five home runs, including a pair by Buxton, to chase Gerrit Cole after just 2 1/3 innings.

However, Minnesota starter Dylan Bundy, who last won on April 23, left after allowing four runs in four-plus innings, and the normally reliable Twins bullpen imploded after that, giving up six runs on nine hits in five innings.

Anthony Rizzo’s seventh-inning RBI single proved to be the game-winner. The Twins managed only one hit, a single, after Cole departed.

Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli, whose team went 3-3 over a rough six-game stretch against the Toronto Blue Jays (2-1) and the Yankees (1-2) minus its two best starting pitchers, Joe Ryan and Sonny Gray, put a positive spin on the Thursday loss.

“Obviously we didn’t close out the game the way we needed to,” Baldelli said. “That’s pretty straightforward to all. (But) I was really happy with the way we came out. Playing a really good team, maybe one of the best teams in baseball, we think we’re right there, too. We went right at them. Went after one of the best starters in baseball today and hit him around pretty good. …

“We did a lot of good today. It was a good, hard-fought series. There was a lot more that I was pleased about in that series than I would talk bad about. We can build on this game even though it was a loss.”

Minnesota won two of three from the Rays from April 29-May 1 in St. Petersburg, Fla., including a 9-1 victory over McClanahan, who has won six consecutive decisions since.

–Field Level Media

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