The Tampa Bay Rays look to take advantage of an opportunity to make up ground in the American League wild-card race when they host the Minnesota Twins on Monday for the opener of a key three-game series. The Rays fumbled their chance to be closer to the Twins, who occupy the second wild-card spot, by losing a pair of contests to the AL-worst Chicago White Sox over the weekend and trail by four games.
Tampa Bay won five of the first seven games of its road trip before dropping a 5-4 decision on Saturday and managed just four hits - three by No. 9 hitter Adeiny Hechavarria - in Sunday’s 6-2 setback. Logan Morrison has belted six homers in his last seven games for the Rays as he prepares to face Jose Berrios, who is just 4-5 on the road as opposed to 8-1 at Target Field. Minnesota lost two of three to Kansas City at home over the weekend and starts a seven-game road trip with a 1 1/2-game lead in the race for the second wild card. Joe Mauer has hit safely in a season-high 12 straight contests and the red-hot Byron Buxton is 11-for-20 with three homers and 10 RBIs during his five-game hitting streak for the Twins, who are 36-28 on the road.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Twins RH Jose Berrios (12-6, 3.80 ERA) vs. Rays RH Alex Cobb (9-9, 3.72)
Berrios limited Chicago to four hits over seven scoreless innings on Wednesday while striking out a season-high 11 batters to win for the third time in four decisions. The 23-year-old Puerto Rican, who also worked seven scoreless frames against Arizona on Aug. 19, has registered 27 strikeouts in his last three outings. Evan Longoria is 2-for-3 with a homer versus Berrios, who gave up four runs over five innings in a loss at Tampa Bay last year.
Cobb has permitted four runs over 16 1/3 innings with 17 strikeouts and two walks while going winless in his last four outings. The 29-year-old Boston native gave up two homers at Kansas City on Tuesday, marking the fourth time in his last nine starts he has surrendered multiple blasts. Mauer is 2-for-2 with a double versus Cobb, who yielded one run on six hits and three walks over five innings in a no-decision at Minnesota on May 28.
1. Mauer needs one RBI to pass Justin Morneau (860) for fifth place on the franchise list and is six runs away from tying Rod Carew (950) for third.
2. The Rays have homered in 14 straight games, totaling 28 during that stretch, and need five to reach 200 for the second straight season.
3. Minnesota C Jason Castro (concussion) was activated Sunday after missing 10 days but did not play.
PREDICTION: Rays 4, Twins 1