Buxton hits another pair of HRs as Twins power past Rays 9-4

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Byron Buxton had his second straight two-homer game and the Minnesota Twins sent another quality opposing starting pitcher to an early exit, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 9-4 on Friday night.

Buxton has gone deep five times in the last three days and moved into a tie for second in the major leagues with 17 homers in just 43 games. Carlos Correa tacked on a two-run shot in the eighth inning for...

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Byron Buxton had his second straight two-homer game and the Minnesota Twins sent another quality opposing starting pitcher to an early exit, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 9-4 on Friday night.

Buxton has gone deep five times in the last three days and moved into a tie for second in the major leagues with 17 homers in just 43 games. Carlos Correa tacked on a two-run shot in the eighth inning for the Twins, who have scored eight-plus runs in five of their last seven games.

Randy Arozarena and Vidal Bruján hit back-to-back homers for the Rays in the seventh and Isaac Paredes went deep in the second against Twins starter Devin Smeltzer (3-0), who allowed only one other hit over six-plus innings and retired 10 straight batters at one point.

Arozarena’s home run was an inside-the-park drive, the second of the season for the Rays following Kevin Kiermaier’s on May 24.

Drew Rasmussen (5-3) turned in his worst of 12 starts this year for Tampa Bay, coming off seven shutout innings of three-hit ball in his last turn. He was charged with seven runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings, though three runs were unearned thanks to a fifth-inning fielding error on first baseman Harold Ramírez.

Rays starters had allowed two runs or fewer in 20 of the last 26 games.

The Twins just got done roughing up New York standouts Jameson Taillon, Nestor Cortes and Gerrit Cole earlier this week, though they won only one of those three games.

After a 10-7 loss to the Yankees on Thursday night and the discouraging news before the game that top prospect Royce Lewis needs another ACL surgery, the Twins needed a pick-me-up. Buxton and Smeltzer sure delivered.

Buxton’s second homer came off a half-swing, no less, that managed to travel into the bullpen behind left-center. His first one was a no-doubt drive into the upper deck. This was his eighth multi-homer game, and he became the fourth player in Twins history to do so in consecutive games. Eddie Rosario, Kirby Puckett and Don Mincher were the others.

WE WANT RANDY!

The young, boisterous crowd in the left field bleachers spent much of the game taunting Arozarena, who was the closest Rays player to their seats, by chanting his first name and mixing in some “We want Randy!” verses. The seemingly good-natured razzing continued as Arozarena batted in the seventh, right before his inside-the-park homer.

Gordon, who played center field with Buxton taking a turn as the designated hitter, had a chance to catch it as he tried to camp under the high fly on the track, but the ball eluded his outstretched glove and bounced toward shallow center as Arozarena raced around the bases.

GOOD TIMING

The Twins staged a Buxton-themed giveaway for this game — not a jersey or a bobblehead, but a 2022-friendly non-fungible token. This was the first such promotion for the team involving the digital collectible, or NFT, and this one included images of Buxton’s signature and a customized notation of the game information and seat location for each ticket-holder.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: More bad news came before the game with season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery determined for reliever Andrew Kittredge and, in a lesser blow, catcher Mike Zunino placed on the injured list with shoulder inflammation. Both players were All-Stars in 2021.

Twins: The rotation should get a big boost next week with the return of RHPs Sonny Gray (pectoral strain) and Joe Ryan (COVID-19), manager Rocco Baldelli said. Both pitchers are expected to start in Seattle, likely Tuesday and Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Rays: RHP Shane Baz will start the middle game of the series in his 2022 debut. He’s been on the 60-day injured list recovering from arthroscopic elbow surgery on March 21. The 2017 first-round draft pick made three starts as a rookie last season.

Twins: The starting pitcher for Saturday afternoon is “a true TBD until the last minute,” Baldelli said. The Twins are planning to make it an all-bullpen game, with seven starting pitchers sidelined on one of the injured lists.

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