MINNEAPOLIS -- After coming off an impressive road trip to Boston and Cleveland that saw Minnesota win five out of seven, the Twins were hoping to bring some momentum into their three-game series against the Rays at Target Field.
But it didn't quite work out that way, as the Twins were swept for the eighth time this season instead. Left-hander Scott Diamond turned in yet another quality start on Sunday, but the bullpen faltered late to hand the Twins a 7-3 loss to the Rays in 10 innings.
The Twins ended up getting outscored, 23-11, in the three-game set, and have now lost four in a row.
"They're hot," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of the Rays. "They've got what they need, pitching-wise, from the bullpen all the way down. They make it really tough to score runs against them and they are putting the offense together to where they are starting to put a few balls in the seats and they run around the bases aggressively."
Right-hander Alex Burnett struggled in the 10th, as he loaded the bases with one out. Jeff Keppinger brought home the go-ahead run for the Rays on an RBI groundout to shortstop Brian Dozier, who threw to first instead of trying to turn a double play or throw home.
Dozier said it was the right decision to get the out at first, as he didn't think he could get the speedy Desmond Jennings out at home and turning two would be tough because it was a slow roller.
"It's bad luck, but at the same time, you've got to make sure you get one out" Dozier said. "We for sure, 100 percent, would not turn a double play."
Gardenhire, though, said that while he liked Dozier's thought process on the play, he should've tried to turn two or thrown home.
"Your two options are to try to turn the double play in my opinion, or go home," Gardenhire said. "But he had good thoughts."
Left-hander Tyler Robertson then came in, but hit Carlos Pena with a pitch to load the bases again. Casey Fien relieved Robertson, but couldn't limit the damage, as he gave up a two-run single to Ryan Roberts and an RBI double to pinch-hitter Matt Joyce.
It spoiled a strong outing from Diamond, who threw his team-leading 13th quality start in 18 outings this year. But he had trouble in the early going, giving up a leadoff homer to Jennings in the first inning before serving up a solo homer to Keppinger in the second.
But Diamond was able to settle down after that, as he ended up going seven strong innings, allowing three runs on eight hits. He also struck out six and walked two.
"I don't think I threw some of those pitches with as much conviction as I should, so I was just kind of regrouping in the dugout and getting back to what makes me successful," Diamond said. "I talked it over with Joe [Mauer] about how we were going to approach the guys and just got back to throwing strikes and working back down in the zone."
The other run Diamond allowed came in the fifth, when he gave up back-to-back doubles to Roberts and Sean Rodriguez.
The Rays received an equally strong performance from right-hander James Shields, who surrendered three runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk over seven innings.
The Twins capitalized on an error from Keppinger in the second, as he had trouble with a grounder from Josh Willingham, and Justin Morneau followed with a two-run blast to tie the game at 2-2.
Minnesota scored again in the third on an RBI single from Mauer to score Denard Span, who doubled with one out. Span, though, later left the game with right shoulder pain after landing awkwardly trying to make a diving catch in center in the sixth inning.
"Overall, I thought I pitched pretty well," Shields said. "That's a tough lineup over there. They have been hot lately. I think our pitching staff did a good job of shutting them down this series."