MINNEAPOLIS -- The beginning to the Twins and Rays finale on Sunday had to seem like a bad movie being played over and over for the Twins, as they fell behind early again. But in a plot twist, the Rays actually found themselves coming from behind to beat the Twins, 7-3, in 10 innings to win their sixth consecutive game and earn a second straight series sweep.
It took extra innings, but Tampa Bay finally got it done. With the bases loaded and one out in the 10th, Jeff Keppinger chopped a ball to Twins shortstop Brian Dozier, who decided he didn't have time to go home or turn the double play, so he retired Keppinger at first base, allowing Desmond Jennings to score the winning run. Ryan Roberts then added a two-run single and Matt Joyce delivered an RBI pinch-hit double to break the game open.
There was some question of whether Dozier made the right call by not going home with the ball or trying for the double play. Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire said he talked to his rookie shortstop after the game about the play.
"He knew the runners and the speed at third base," Gardenhire said. "All we talked was situational baseball late in the game like that. Your two options are to try to turn the double play in my opinion, or go home. He kind of got screened by the runner after he caught by the ball, so that was his play. He's out there, we're not. Everybody has an opinion on where he should've thrown the ball. But I am going to back my player here. He did what he thought was right."
The two teams were tied at 3 after nine innings, despite Tampa Bay giving the Twins every opportunity to win the game prior to extra innings. The Rays left runners in scoring position at key times during the game and committed three errors that led to one unearned run, but still found a way to win.
"Today was a grind. I think today we willed ourselves a win," starting pitcher James Shields said. "We showed a lot of character. Obviously, we made a couple errors today, but the guys fought to the end."
For the third straight game, the Rays jumped on the Twins before Minnesota even came to the plate. Sunday, it was Jennings who led off the game, for the third time in his career, with a home run. Keppinger matched Jennings in the second inning when he led off with a home run to give the Rays an early 2-0 lead.
Unfortunately, what happened the first two games of the series didn't repeat itself in the final game, as the Twins, who had trailed the entire series from the opening pitch, tied the game in the second inning when Justin Morneau homered, driving in Josh Willingham, who reached on an error. The Twins then took their first lead with Joe Mauer's RBI single in the third inning.
The Rays battled back to tie the game in the fifth inning, but a double play left the go-ahead run stranded on third base. There were several opportunities at the plate and in the field in which Tampa Bay failed to execute Sunday.
"We had many opportunities to score more runs than we did. We made more mistakes today than we have over the last two weeks and we were still able to win that game because we are playing hard. To win an extra-inning game on the road, I love it," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Roberts and Keppinger paced the offense, going a combined 5-9 with four RBIs.
Shields was not as sharp as his last two outings, but he did pitch well enough to win, despite the no-decision. One of the three runs he gave up was unearned. Shields pitched seven innings, struck out two and walked one in throwing 99 pitches. The Rays made three errors Sunday after going the last 10 games without any.
Shields said he was satisfied with the way pitched, even though he did not qualify for the win.
"Overall, I thought I pitched pretty well. 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. I am just glad we got a win," he said.
Tampa Bay's bullpen was once again as good as advertised, pitching three scoreless innings. Kyle Farnsworth earned his first victory of the season, Fernando Rodney earned his league-leading 36th save and J.P. Howell extended his scoreless streak to 22 2/3 innings.
With the victory over Minnesota, Tampa Bay is now the leader in the Wild Card race and just five games behind the Yankees in the American League East.
Joe Kieser is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.