Series: Game 1 of 2

Minnesota leads 1-0 (as of 7/21)

Game 1: Wednesday, July 21
Tampa Bay2Final
Game 2: Thursday, July 22
Tampa Bay5Final

Devil Rays 2

(45-49, 19-28 away)

Twins 12

(51-43, 27-22 home)

    8:10 PM ET, July 21, 2004

    Mall of America Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota 

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    TB 110000000 2 8 0
    MIN 00180120 - 12 17 1

    W: B. Radke (6-6)

    L: J. Halama (5-4)

    Twins pour it on, pound Devil Rays

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- When Henry Blanco hits, it's a bonus. The same could be said lately about the Minnesota Twins.

    Blanco went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI, helping the Twins forget their batting woes for a night with a 12-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Wednesday.

    "I think this is what we need to get it going," Blanco said.

    Luis Rivas

    Henry Blanco

    Luis Rivas hit a three-run homer, Justin Morneau had three hits and an RBI, and Lew Ford homered and scored three runs for the Twins, who got a season-best 17 hits and scored eight times in the fourth inning against Devil Rays starter John Halama.

    "I see where Minnesota said they are having problems scoring runs," Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. "They didn't have any problems tonight. ... They hit some balls awfully hard."

    Brad Radke (6-6) benefited from some rare run support, winning for just the second time in 11 starts. He allowed two runs and six hits in seven easy innings and struck out four.

    "I'm not complaining, man," said Radke, who has nine no-decisions. "I'll take those runs anytime."

    Though leading the Chicago White Sox by a half-game in the AL Central, Minnesota scored in double digits for just the second time since beating Tampa Bay 16-4 on June 1.

    The Twins batted .217 and scored 24 runs in their last nine games, losing six of those and reaching 10 or more hits just once in that span. After averaging more than six runs per game in the season's first month, Minnesota's average is down to 4.18 since the start of May.

    It was 96 degrees and muggy outside, and with the Metrodome's air conditioning off earlier in the day the first-pitch temperature was a toasty 83 under the roof. Balls seemed to carry well in the warmth.

    "We might need to do that for a couple more nights," center fielder Torii Hunter said.

    Carl Crawford led off the game with a homer for the Devil Rays, who have lost 11 of 16 since moving a season-high two games over .500 on July 3. Though he extended his hitting streak to 12 games, Crawford had a tough time in left field in the big fourth inning.

    He fumbled around with Ford's leadoff blooper that went for a hustling double. With one run in and the game tied at 2, Jacque Jones hit a double to the warning track that Crawford could have caught. Thirteen Twins wound up batting that inning.

    "I found myself in a little sideways action instead of getting up and down and through the ball," Halama said. "The ball stayed up in the zone. That was the big key."

    Halama (5-4) allowed more than three runs in only one of his six previous starts, but this was by far his worst. He yielded nine hits, nine runs and a walk in 3 2-3 innings while striking out three.

    "We were expecting better, obviously, and didn't get it," Piniella said.

    Blanco, pressed into more playing time when rookie catcher Joe Mauer went on the disabled list Monday with a sore knee, entered the game batting .137 (16-for-117) since April 26.

    He homered in the third and broke the game open in the fourth with a two-run single after Halama intentionally walked Michael Cuddyer to load the bases. Blanco even threw out Rocco Baldelli trying to steal in the first inning, the 16th runner he has caught this season in 34 attempts.

    "I've been struggling pretty much all year long," said Blanco, who had a productive pregame discussion with batting coach Scott Ullger. "I told Scotty it's going to be different. I'm not going to give up my at-bats that easily."

    Blanco, a defensive standout and career .219 hitter, was signed as a free agent to help mentor Mauer.

    "You don't get consistent at-bats, and that makes it tough to maintain," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "When he gets hot, he'll get some pitches and he'll bang 'em. ... We just expect him to control the game with the pitcher when he's catching. He does that very well."

    Game notes

    Twins SS Cristian Guzman missed his second straight game with back spasms. ... Crawford has five homers this year, two leading off a game. ... Twins 3B Corey Koskie, 0-for-11 in his career against Halama and mired in a season-long slump, was given the night off. "He's having a hard time right now," Gardenhire said. "He's driving himself crazy." ... Radke passed Frank Viola for third place on Minnesota's career strikeouts list with 1,215. Bert Blyleven is first with 2,035, followed by Jim Kaat with 1,824. ... The Twins are 34-0 when leading after seven innings. ... Seven of Crawford's last 11 hits are for extra bases.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press