Late homers, big hits lift Twins in opener

Late homers, big hits lift Twins in opener

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Twins used the long ball to turn a seventh-inning deficit into a 6-2 win over the Rays on Friday at Tropicana Field.

After Brad Miller crushed his 20th home run of the season to put the Rays on top, 2-1, Minnesota used a pinch-hit, two-run home run from Eddie Rosario and an insurance blast from Miguel Sano to make it 4-2. Both home runs came off Tampa Bay reliever Erasmo Ramirez.

"You go back and look at [Ramirez's] pitches, and I'm guessing they were probably hit where they were supposed to be hit given the location on them," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "The first one looked like a hanging changeup. The other, a fastball that just ran in."

Sano dials in, delivers three-hit performance

Sano's solo home run

Ervin Santana pitched 6 1/3 innings to get the win, striking out eight batters. He came out in the seventh after allowing a one-out double to Tim Beckham, but the Rays would strand Beckham as the tying run at second base. Tampa Bay left five runners on base, including two in scoring position in the fifth inning.

"A nice pitching matchup," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Ervin continued his good trend."

Santana's strong start

Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell struck out seven batters in 5 1/3 innings. He labored most of the night but limited the damage, as it was the bullpen that proved to be the Achilles heel. Between Ramirez and Ryan Garton, the 'pen allowed five runs. It was the most runs the Rays allowed overall since July 18 in Colorado.

"Just wish I would've went a little deeper in the game, and by doing that, I should've been more consistent with my pitches and more competitive in the zone," Snell said. "It's something I'll learn from."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In a pinch: With right-hander Ramirez on the hill in the seventh inning and No. 9 hitter Byron Buxton due up, Molitor turned to his bench. Rosario, a left-handed hitter, batted for Buxton. Ramirez's first pitch was a changeup, which Rosario sent 403 feet over the right-center field fence to give the Twins a 3-2 lead. The long ball was the second pinch-hit homer of the season for Rosario and the third of his career.

E. Rosario's two-run homer

"We didn't have a lot of experience on the bench in general, and it's tough for young guys to adjust to that role of coming up there when you're not in the game and trying to put a good swing on the ball," Molitor said. "When I called him to hit, he was still in the cage, so I figured he was ready." More >

Easy as 1-2-3: The Rays had runners at second and third with nobody out in the fifth inning against Santana with the score tied 1-1. Luke Maile came up and struck out swinging, then Logan Forsythe and Kevin Kiermaier did the same. The Rays had three chances to bring home the lead run and failed each time to do so.

Santana gets out of trouble

"Just trying to make them hit the ball on the ground and not fly balls," Santana said. "I was not even thinking about strikeouts, just trying to make them hit it in the ground."

Snell ya later: The Rays' starter wasn't at his sharpest on Friday, but he limited the Twins to one run and kept the Rays in the game. He lasted 5 1/3 innings for the second straight game and struck out seven batters. He allowed one run in a 28-pitch third inning but stranded runners at the corners with one out.

Snell strikes out seven

"I feel like I was aggressive in those at-bats," Snell said of escaping the third-inning jam. "I wanted to get ahead -- I had to get ahead -- so that's something I should be doing the whole game, something I'll definitely get better at." More >

Miller Time: Miller mashed his 20th home run of the season in the sixth inning, a 414-foot shot. Miller has averaged 416 feet per home run this season, ninth in the Majors. It was his third home run in the last three games. Both Miller and Longoria have 20 home runs, the first time since 2012 that two Rays players have posted that total. It was Longoria and Ben Zobrist that year.

"Brad Miller comes up, gets the big home run," Cash said. "He continues to stay hot. He continues to carry a pretty big offensive load for us. We just let the game get away."

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Joe Mauer continues to dominate at Tropicana Field. The first baseman went 2-for-4 with a walk and two RBIs Friday, lifting his career batting average at the Trop to .402 and his career on-base percentage in St. Petersburg to .503. Both numbers lead the Major Leagues.

WHAT'S NEXT
Twins: Jose Berrios (2-1, 8.57 ERA) will make his sixth career start, and second since returning from a 2 1/2-month trip to the Minors, Saturday against the Rays at 6:10 p.m. ET. The right-hander was solid in his return, spreading three earned runs across six innings while striking out five to beat the Indians. Most importantly, Berrios didn't walk any batters for the first time in his brief MLB career.

Rays: Chris Archer (5-15, 4.38 ERA) has lowered his ERA to the lowest it's been since May 17. Three of his past four starts have extended at least seven innings, but he hasn't had results in the win column to show for it. He'll seemingly have a good shot against the Twins on Saturday, since he has a 1.78 career ERA against them.

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Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.

David Wilson is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.