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Looking To Even Series, Twins Send Scott Baker To The Mound

(Sports Network) - Once the owners of the best record in baseball, the Rays haven't won three straight games since early June. Joe Maddon's ballclub has to like its chances of reaching that mark tonight, when David Price goes for his 12th victory of the season in Tampa Bay's continuation of a four-game series with the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.

Price set a new career high when he became the first American League pitcher to reach 11 wins with his defeat of Arizona on Saturday. Winning for the fourth time in five starts, the 24-year-old held the Diamondbacks to just a pair of runs on seven hits over eight innings while matching a career high with 11 strikeouts.

"That's what he's capable of doing. That's what he's going to look like as he matures and understands what he's doing out there," said Maddon. "You're going to see that a lot more often. He's been good ... but this is what he can look like."

The left-hander leads the AL with a 2.44 ERA and is 6-2 with a 2.88 ERA in eight road starts. He is also 1-0 versus the Twins with a 1.42 ERA in two games (one start) and will try to pitch the Rays to their first winning streak of three games since June 6-9.

After taking the finale of a two-game set from Boston on Wednesday, Tampa Bay won its second straight for the first time since its aforementioned three-game run thanks to Thursday's 5-4 victory over Minnesota in 10 innings.

Carl Crawford had four hits and scored the game-tying run for the Rays in the ninth on Evan Longoria's double before Willy Aybar plated Reid Brignac with an RBI single in the 10th inning. Rafael Soriano then locked down his 19th save with a perfect 10th inning.

"These are the kind of wins I really like," Maddon said. "I also love extra inning victories on the road. I think that really demonstrates a lot of character within your group."

Delmon Young homered, his first since June 13, and knocked in two runs for the Twins, who had a two-game win streak snapped and lost for the seventh time in 10 games. Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel had an RBI apiece in defeat as Minnesota is just one game up on Detroit for first place in the AL Central.

The Twins will hope Scott Baker can get on track tonight as the righty has lost two straight and three of his last four starts to fall to 6-7 on the season with a 4.97 ERA.

Baker has allowed 16 runs in his three setbacks, but also threw seven shutout innings in a win over the Rockies on June 16. However, the 28-year-old matched a season high with six runs allowed and set a new season high with 11 hits over 4 1/3 frames in a loss to the Mets on Sunday.

"Baker couldn't put a hitter away today, just couldn't get his breaking ball down and missed on a couple of sliders that were just hanging there," manager Rod Gardenhire said.

Baker is 1-2 with a 5.30 ERA versus the Rays and will look to slow down Crawford, who is 3-for-7 with a homer versus Baker lifetime. Crawford has a pair of four-hit games in his last three contests and three over his last 10 games played.

These two clubs have split their six-game series in each of the last two years, with the Rays losing two of three at Minnesota a season ago.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.