MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Rays' bats finally backed up Jason Hammel.
Hammel had his second straight strong outing, Nathan Haynes' single keyed a four-run rally and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Minnesota Twins 7-3 Thursday night to split the two-game series.In six innings, Hammel (1-1) allowed six hits and three runs while striking out five to help the Rays end a three-game losing streak. He allowed two earned runs in a career-best seven innings Saturday against Baltimore, but settled for a no-decision.This time he got some help from an offense that had generated just two runs in his previous two starts. That is surprising, since the Rays have scored at least seven runs five times, and at least five runs in 10 of 16 contests."When you get seven runs from your hitters early it makes it much easier," Hammel said. "It was nice, but it's ups and downs all the time. You can go out and give up eight runs and they'll pull out nine runs for you, and there's other nights you go eight shutout and don't get a run. It's baseball. It always works out."That wasn't the case for Minnesota starter Boof Bonser (1-3), who allowed six earned runs and seven hits in four innings. He struggled all night before coming undone in the fifth.Up 3-2, Tampa Bay batted around and scored four times to chase Bonser, who hasn't won in 12 home starts since June 10, 2007."I made my pitches," said Bonser, who allowed three hits in six innings last Saturday in Kansas City. "I had some balls up the middle, some that went by the infield and I just didn't get them to really hit it at anybody."He gave up an RBI single through the hole to Carl Crawford and walked B.J. Upton to load the bases, before being removed with nobody out. Haynes hit a two-run single off reliever Brian Bass and Upton scored on a ground out to give the Rays a 7-3 lead."With the bases loaded and nobody out, I'm just trying to make contact and put it in play," said Haynes, who entered the game after Carlos Pena left with right hamstring tightness. Pena is listed as day-to-day."I think I went over my speed limit, and my leg let me know. I felt some discomfort in the back of my leg, behind my knee, so I pulled up," Pena said, adding that the team trainer doesn't think it is serious. "You have to be patient about it to see what's going to happen."Hammel, who consistently threw breaking balls for strikes, knows that when Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza return to the Rays rotation, he could be headed to the bullpen, but he doesn't let himself think about that. Hammel pitched in relief 10 times in 2007, and started 14 games."I'm just pitching to win like the other guys in the rotation," he said. "I'm confident I'll stay in the rotation if I throw like this."J.P. Howell earned his first career save, allowing two hits in three innings of scoreless relief for the Rays."We did all the right things today and that's why you win," manager Joe Maddon said.Upton had an RBI single in the first inning and Eric Hinske hit is second homer in as many days to give the Rays a 2-0 lead in the second.Minnesota's Matt Tolbert and Delmon Young sandwiched RBI singles around one by Evan Longoria to make it 3-2. Joe Mauer added an RBI single in the fifth for Minnesota."We just couldn't find a way to get some runs off that guy over there," said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire. "I thought we had a good chance there early in the game, but it got away from us."
Hinske hit homers in back-to-back games for the first time since he hit one in three straight games from July 22-24, 2006. ... Twins RF Denard Span committed two errors. He lost a ball in the lights and dropped a ball on Haynes' hit. ... Minnesota pitcher Brian Bass left in the fifth inning with a lower back strain. He is listed as day-to-day. ... Minnesota RF Michael Cuddyer, on the 15-day disabled list since dislocating his right index finger April 4 and needing stitches to close a gash, played some soft toss Thursday. Gardenhire said Cuddyer probably won't come off the DL when he is eligible Sunday.