MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins clubbed a pair of tape measure home runs, including a go-ahead blast in the eighth by Brian Dozier to edge the Rays by a score of 5-3 on Saturday at Target Field.
Dozier launched a 2-1 fastball from Rays righty Tommy Hunter just below the upper deck in right-center to give Minnesota its first lead of the series. According to Statcast™, the ball traveled an estimated 423 feet with an exit velocity of 104.5 mph. It is tied for his longest projected homer of the season.
"It was a must-win as far as the pressure building to win at home for us," Dozier said. "Now we have a chance to win the series. Good teams find ways, we were down early in the game. It was a big win."
Earlier in the game, Eddie Rosario deposited a baseball in the upper deck himself. Per Statcast™, his fourth inning solo shot traveled an estimated 426 feet, which marked his furthest homer of the year and longest since a 446-foot dinger on July 9 of last year.
Meanwhile, neither starter factored into the decision despite a pair of two-run performances. Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Odorizzi threw a season-high 118 pitches while scattering seven hits across 5 2/3 innings. Lefty Adalberto Mejia lasted five innings, in which he allowed six hits and recorded six strikeouts.
"The pitch count and strike percentage was a little uncharacteristic for him," Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Odorizzi. "He was battling with the zone a little bit."
Tampa Bay catcher Derek Norris drove in both runs off Mejia via an RBI single in the second inning and a sacrifice fly in the fourth. In the ninth, Colby Rasmus crushed a full-count fastball off Minnesota closer Brandon Kintzler.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Sano's struggles continue: The Twins missed an opportunity to take the lead an inning earlier, after Robbie Grossman worked a leadoff walk to open the seventh. Pinch-runner Byron Buxton moved to third on an errant pickoff throw two batters later, which set the stage for a pinch-hit at-bat by Miguel Sano. However, Sano whiffed on a changeup from Rays right-hander Danny Farquhar, who managed to leave the go-ahead run stranded 90 ft away. Sano is now hitless in his last 14 at-bats, including eight consecutive strikeouts.
Second inning save: Mejia struggled with his command in the second and the Rays appeared poised for a big inning as they loaded the bases with one out. Instead, Tampa Bay only scored one run thanks in large part to an impressive defensive play by Twins catcher Chris Gimenez. With Peter Bourjos batting, Mejia's throw got away from him forcing Gimenez to quickly recover the wild pitch. Gimenez was then able to fire the ball back to Mejia, who laid down the tag on Steven Souza Jr. at home plate.
"I felt good, I was a little tired from flying in yesterday, but I felt good," Mejia said through a team translator. "I was trying to spot my pitches. I thought my pitches were moving a lot and that's the reason they sometimes missed."
"You can't really say it was a good pitch because the guy hit it 485 feet. It was what I wanted to throw, and it was close to where I wanted it. He beat me." -- Hunter, on Dozier's home run
WHAT'S NEXT Rays: Tampa Bay sends right-hander Alex Cobb (4-4, 3.82 ERA) to face the Twins in the series finale on Sunday at 2:10 p.m. ET. Cobb has pitched into the seventh inning in his last four starts, though he's only 2-2 over that stretch.
Twins: Right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-4, 8.62 ERA) will make his eighth start of the season in the finale on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. CT. He earned his first win of the year last time out, allowing six runs over five innings against Baltimore. Gibson is 1-4 with a 7.82 ERA in five career starts against Tampa Bay.