ST. PETERSBURG -- Twins manager Paul Molitor has stressed to his players how bunting can be a weapon all season, and it paid off against the Rays on Wednesday.
A pair of bunt singles from Byron Buxton and Brian Dozier off Tampa Bay ace Chris Archer in the seventh inning loaded the bases and helped spark a two-run rally to lift the Twins to their sixth straight win with a 5-3 victory over Tampa Bay.
It helped the Twins move back into the second American League Wild Card spot for the first time since Aug. 4, as they are a half-game ahead of the Rangers. The six straight road wins are also the most for the Twins since they also won six straight on the road from Aug. 14-26, 2007.
It was small ball that helped them get there, as Shane Robinson led off the seventh with a walk against Archer before Buxton dropped a bunt in front of home plate and showed off his elite speed to reach first safely. Brian Dozier followed with a bunt he popped up into the air, but it landed in the perfect spot, as it dropped in just out of the reach of Archer to load the bases.
"I think the biggest at-bat of the night was Shane's walk to battle and take close pitches against a guy who isn't easy to take tough pitches against," Molitor said. "We tried to get a run there and we bunted with Buxton, and I'm not sure what his time was [to first], but it was impressive. And I don't bunt Doz too often, but thought it was a good time to do it and he got away with a little bit of a mistake there."
"We were able to cash in a couple," Molitor said. "Joe got the base hit and Trevor got the sac fly."
So while the Twins cashed in on their bases-loaded situation, they were able to get out of three bases loaded jams in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. The Rays loaded the bases with two outs in both the fourth and fifth, but right-hander Tyler Duffey wriggled his way out both times. In the sixth, Tampa Bay had the bases loaded with nobody out, but Duffey got Rene Rivera to pop out before Brian Duensing came in to get two crucial outs.
"That was big," Duffey said. "Any time you can do that it saves the bullpen. It doesn't save me in terms of going deeper into the game but if you walk guys and then give up hits, I think I gave up a double and walked two guys at one point, you have to battle."