(Sports Network) – Evan Longoria went 3-for-5 with three runs batted in and finished a home run shy of the cycle, as the Tampa Bay Rays downed the Minnesota Twins, 7-4, in the finale of a four-game set at Target Field.
Sean Rodriguez turned in a three-hit game, with a solo homer, and Gabe Kapler added a two-run pinch-hit double for Tampa Bay, which took three games in the series and has won four of five overall.
James Shields (7-8) earned the win after allowing four runs on eight hits and one walk with two strikeouts in six-plus innings. The right-hander had dropped seven of his previous eight starts coming in. Rafael Soriano registered his 21st save of the season with a scoreless ninth.
Jim Thome had a two-run single and Justin Morneau went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and a run scored for the Twins, who have split their last six contests.
Nick Blackburn (7-6) was tagged with the loss for surrendering nine hits and seven runs — four earned — while walking two and fanning three over 6 1/3 innings.
Longoria’s triple to right in the first scored Rodriguez, who led off the inning with a single, to give the Rays the early lead.
Minnesota answered with a run in the home half as Joe Mauer reached with a two-out single and came around to score on Morneau’s double to tie things.
Rodriguez then put the Rays back in front with a leadoff homer to right in the third and they would tack on five more in the seventh to go ahead 7-1.
The first two batters singled to put runners on first and second before Blackburn’s throwing error on Jason Bartlett’s sacrifice bunt allowed a run to score. After Rodriguez grounded out, Carl Crawford was walked intentionally to load the bases. Longoria’s single to center brought in two more and signaled the end of the afternoon for Blackburn.
Brian Duensing took over and struck out Willy Aybar then gave up a two-run double to Kapler.
The Twins were able to get back three in the home seventh to cut the deficit to 7-4. Minnesota quickly loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk before Thome singled off the right-field wall that plated two. Grant Balfour replaced Shields and served up a run-scoring single to Delmon Young, but settled down to retire the next three hitters to limit the damage.
Randy Choate pitched a perfect eighth and Soriano closed the game out after giving up one hit in the ninth.
Both clubs will be well represented at this year’s All-Star Game in Anaheim as Twins catcher Mauer was the top vote-getter overall and Morneau was selected as the starting first baseman…Rays outfielder Crawford and third baseman Longoria were voted in to start in the Midsummer Classic and they’ll be joined by pitcher David Price…Shields improved to 3-1 in seven career starts against the Twins…Blackburn dropped to 5-1 in eight starts at Target Field this season.