ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Left-hander Erik Bedard could only give the Rays four innings, and their worn-down bullpen couldn’t stop the Twins lineup as Minnesota captured a 9-7 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday afternoon.
With the win, the Twins (11-10) secured their first series victory at Tropicana Field since Sept. 4-6, 2006.
Twins starter Ricky Nolasco struggled in the second inning and wound up allowing six runs on 10 hits. But Minnesota got six innings out of Nolasco, and the recently untouchable Twins bullpen held on, surviving the Rays’ late rally.
Down by two runs in the eighth inning, the Rays (10-12) loaded the bases for center fielder Desmond Jennings, who popped out on the first pitch from reliever Jared Burton.
Twins closer Glen Perkins converted his fifth save in six opportunities with a perfect ninth inning.Tampa Bay, meanwhile, had to turn the game over to its overworked bullpen in the fifth inning. With the Rays trailing by a run, reliever Heath Bell promptly hit a batter and gave up two hits before serving up a three-run blast to outfielder Aaron Hicks that put the game well out of reach.The Rays’ starters have lasted five innings or less in eight of their last 10 games, forcing the bullpen to pick up 44 1/3 innings during that stretch.
Bedard slowly labored through a 41-pitch first inning in which he walked four batters. Twins second baseman Brian Dozier and first baseman Joe Mauer walked to lead off the game, then Bedard issued a two-out walk to designated hitter Josmil Pinto.
Catcher Kurt Suzuki opened up the scoring, driving in Dozier and Mauer with a single to left field. Former Rays outfielder Sam Fuld, of Durham, N.H., added another run on a double to the right-field corner to put the Twins ahead, 3-0. Fuld had three hits in the game.
Bedard walked Hicks before striking out shortstop Pedro Florimon to end a 22-minute top of the first inning.
The Twins added another run in the second as Bedard walked Dozier before surrendering singles to Mauer and third baseman Trevor Plouffe.
But the Rays struck back in the third inning, as first baseman James Loney doubled in third baseman Evan Longoria and designated hitter David DeJesus launched a two-run homer to right field off Nolasco, bringing the Rays within a run.