The Twins finally put an end to their 25-inning scoreless streak, and rookie Josmil Pinto delivered a go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth inning to lead Minnesota to a 6-4 victory over the Rays at Target Field.
"It was an exciting win for us," Gardenhire said. "We had some big at-bats and some big home runs, and none bigger than the one by Mr. Pinto. That was really exciting for our baseball team after that long night last night. We talked about if we were really getting after it, and today I thought we really got after it."
Pinto stepped up to plate with the Twins trailing by one run with two on and two out, and he came through with a clutch performance against Rays reliever Joel Peralta. It was part of a four-run eighth for Minnesota, as Ryan Doumit hit a solo shot with two outs, before Trevor Plouffe singled and Josh Willingham walked to set the table for Pinto's heroics.
It was just another chapter in an impressive start to Pinto's career. He is hitting .405 with two homers and seven RBIs in his first 11 big league games.
"When I hit the ball, I wasn't sure if it was going to go," Pinto said through translator Chris Colabello. "I knew I made good contact, and I was running hard when I looked up and saw it go out. I was happy for the team and immediately started thinking about how we'd go out and get three outs."
The homer came on an 0-1 split-finger fastball from Peralta, and was a blow to the Rays, who remain in the thick of the Wild Card chase.
"The fastball was good, but my out-pitch is the split," Peralta said. "That's the pitch I've got to trust, and it didn't work today.
After being shut out by the Rays on Friday and Saturday, the Twins saw their scoreless streak reach a season-long 25 innings before finally tallying two in the seventh inning on a single from Chris Parmelee.
Rays ace David Price pitched out of several jams until Minnesota finally got on the board in the seventh, when Price loaded the bases with one out. The Rays went with left-handed reliever Jake McGee, who gave up the single to Parmelee, but was able to strike out Eduardo Escobar and Alex Presley to end the inning.
"That was huge," Gardenhire said. "He stayed in there and got a good piece of the ball and got a couple big of RBIs. We hadn't scored a run in a really long time."
Twins left-hander Pedro Hernandez was hurt by the long ball in his start, as he gave up two homers in his five innings of work. He allowed just four hits, but struggled with his control, walking four batters and needing 89 pitches to get through his outing.
The Rays opened the scoring in the fourth on a two-run blast from Wil Myers into the second deck in left field above the two bullpens. It scored Evan Longoria, who reached on a fielder's choice, even though replays showed he was out at first while trying to beat out a 5-4-3 double play.
Tampa Bay added another run on a homer from Sean Rodriguez to open the fifth inning. The Rays loaded the bases, but Doumit made a leaping catch at the wall in right field to rob Delmon Young of a hit for the third out.
"It was two mistakes," Hernandez said. "Myers hit a pitch that came back over the middle. I'd take that pitch back."
After the Twins scored two runs in the seventh, the Rays came right back with a run of their own in the eighth on an RBI single from James Loney off reliever Jared Burton. Tampa Bay loaded the bases with one out, but the Twins were able to get out of the jam with Brian Duensing and Casey Fien both getting big outs.
It turned out to be a crucial inning for the Twins, who were able to rally in the eighth and put an end to their four-game losing streak and 11-game losing streak to the Rays. Glen Perkins threw a scoreless ninth to pick up his 35th save.
"It was a good win for us," Gardenhire said. "A really good win against a team in playoff contention there. We needed that one. That's a boost."