ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Hot-hitting Austin Meadows drove in four runs to back the pitching of Charlie Morton, who remained unbeaten for the Tampa Bay Rays with a 14-3 victory over the major league-best Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.
Meadows delivered the big blow in a six-run third inning against starter Martin Perez (7-2), a three-run double down the right field line. The young outfielder also singled home a run in the fourth, when the Rays scored five more times to make it 11-0.
In addition to multiple hits in five consecutive games, Meadows has three doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs during a season-best six-game winning streak that has the second-place Rays within a half-game of the New York Yankees in the AL East.
Tampa Bay’s winning streak is its longest since the team won eight straight in August last year.
Morton (6-0) limited the Twins, who rank among the big league leaders in numerous offensive categories, to two hits before Luis Arraez doubled and scored on Ehire Adrianza’s two-out single in the fifth.
The 35-year-old right-hander, who won 15 games for Houston last season after helping the Astros win the 2017 World Series, has allowed two or fewer runs in 10 of his 12 starts for Tampa Bay.
The Twins top the majors in homers, runs and slugging percentage, but had little success against Morton, who struck out six and didn’t issue a walk while yielding two runs and four hits in seven innings.
Morton improved to 9-0 over his last 19 starts with the Astros and Rays, who signed him to a $30 million, two-year contract as a free agent in December.
It’s the longest unbeaten stretch of his career, as well as the second-longest active streak in the majors behind Clayton Kershaw (11-0 in 20 starts) of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Meadows, meanwhile, was 2 for 5 — boosting his batting average to .361.
Brandon Lowe had three RBIs, Ji-Man Choi hit a two-run homer and Christian Arroyo, Willy Adames, Travis d’Arnaud and Avisail Garcia also drove in runs for the Rays.
Perez allowed a season-high six runs and six hits over 2 2/3 innings for the Twins.
Twins: DH Nelson Cruz (strained left wrist) is taking batting practice and could be nearing a return. “We should know something soon,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. … C Mitch Garver (high left ankle sprain) is on a rehab assignment with Double-A Pensacola and will have his status evaluated after Friday’s game. … CF Byron Buxton, who left Tuesday’s game after bruising his right knee running into the wall, was in the starting lineup.
Rays: C Mike Zunino (left quad strain) played seven innings for Class A Charlotte, going 0 for 3 with three strikeouts. His status will be re-evaluated Friday. … INF Yandy Diaz (bruised left hand) took batting practice, but manager Kevin Cash said the hand remains sore. Zunino and Diaz are already eligible to return from the 10-day injured list.
Twins right-hander Jose Berrios (7-2, 3.20 ERA) starts the second game of the series Friday night. He’s allowed 13 runs (11 earned) and 29 hits over his last three outings. The Rays will use an opener, but did not plan to announce which reliever will take the ball first until after Thursday night’s game.
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