MINNEAPOLIS -- Evan Longoria gave his troublesome left foot some relief -- with an easy jog around the bases.
His dipping batting average got a boost, too.
"It's laughable at this point, some of it," said Longoria, who raised his average eight points to .243. "I've just got to keep going up there and hitting the ball and just hope it falls. There's nothing I can really do to control the outcome of a ball put in play. At least my swing's been feeling good and, for the most part, I've been putting good wood on the ball."
Longoria's single gave the Rays the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, and then he hit a three-run homer in the ninth. The franchise cornerstone, bothered by injuries for much of this substandard season, was 3 for 28 before the game.
"To come through with a hit like that, it kind of opened up the floodgates a little bit," Longoria said. "If it doesn't happen, at least it puts us ahead by one, to kind of ease the tension a little bit and allow some guys to come up and drive some more runs in. It's a pretty good feeling."
The Rays haven't been swept in a series of three or more games since the season-opening set against Baltimore. They've been in third place in their daunting division since late May, though they still have the third-best record in the American League and the sixth-highest winning percentage in the majors.
Their opportunity to prove they belong with the other American League East powers has arrived, with 11 straight games against the Yankees and Red Sox before and after the All-Star break -- "a chance to rock and roll a little bit," as manager Joe Maddon put it prior to the game.
"It's all right in front of us," said catcher Kelly Shoppach, who hit a two-run homer.
Longoria has been struggling -- he was hitless in 13 straight at-bats until his third-inning single -- in part because of a nerve problem in his left foot. "It's like a toothache. Sometimes it just grabs you the wrong way," Maddon said.
The 25-year-old has had a series of shots to help his foot and will continue to play through the pain until the next injection.
"I just hope we can get through two weeks and get to the next one," Longoria said.
Michael Cuddyer drove in three runs and tied the game in the seventh with a homer for the Twins, but their bullpen faltered late after Francisco Liriano struggled early. The Rays, who went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position in the first two games of the series, went 7 for 14 with a walk, a sacrifice and 10 RBIs with runners in scoring position in this game.
"That's who we have to be. You have to take advantage of those moments. We want to go back, and we expect to win the division again," Maddon said.
Alex Burnett (2-5) stumbled badly in the fateful eighth, when three straight batters reached -- capped by Longoria's clutch single. B.J. Upton, batting cleanup, pushed in the next run with a sacrifice squeeze bunt. Then Sean Rodriguez smashed a two-run homer to stretch the lead to four.
"They run a tough lineup out there. It's tough to hold them down," Cuddyer said.
Rays starter Wade Davis allowed nine hits, four runs -- three earned -- and three walks in five innings, striking out only Cuddyer. After a two-run single in the fifth by Jim Thome was soft enough to score Alexi Casilla from first base, the lumbering Thome was thrown out by Upton trying to score from second on Rene Tosoni's single, thwarting the rally and ending the inning.
Liriano didn't even finish the fifth inning. He allowed six hits, four walks and hit three batters. He fell behind 2-0 and 4-2, all on two-out runs fueled by not-so-unfamiliar wildness by the up-and-down left-hander.
In just six games at Target Field, the Rays have four wins -- the most by any opponent since the ballpark opened last April. ... Nishioka had a career-high three hits for the Twins. ... Rays DH Johnny Damon left the game with a bruised hand after being hit a pitch for the second time. He underwent X-rays, but Maddon said afterward there were no broken bones and Damon could play this weekend against his former team, the Yankees.