Jeremy Hellickson shut down the red-hot Twins in his major-league debut and Matt Joyce highlighted the Rays' three-run fifth inning with a two-run double in a 4-2 victory to open a four-game set.
Minnesota came in riding an eight-game winning streak and had a chance to tie the idle White Sox for the American League Central lead, but it was Tampa Bay, behind a highly-touted 23-year-old starter, that possibly inched closer to its division leader.
Hellickson (1-0), recalled from Triple-A Durham to make a spot start for a Rays rotation that had thrown the same five starters all season, yielded three hits and two runs, striking out six and walking two in seven impressive frames.
Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford each scored and drove in a run in the win, the club's ninth in 10 games.
Carl Pavano (13-7) was on the wrong end of a decision for the first time in 11 starts, giving up four runs on nine hits and two walks in six frames. The veteran right-hander had won eight straight decisions coming in.
Jason Kubel went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI in defeat.
Longoria came up with two on and two outs in the third and punched a single through the right side of the infield to plate Reid Brignac for the game's first tally. The run was the first allowed by Minnesota in 23 innings.
Hellickson retired the first 10 hitters he faced before showing he was human in the fourth, as Alexi Casilla walked, moved to third on Delmon Young's single and scored on Kubel's base hit to right.
B.J. Upton was thrown out at home by Michael Cuddyer on a dribbler to first in the bottom half, but the Rays scored three runs in the fifth to take control.
Consecutive doubles from John Jaso and Crawford made it 2-1, and Longoria walked before Joyce roped a two-out, two-run double off the left field wall.
Kubel got a run back in the sixth by sending a first-pitch offering over the right-field fence for his 13th homer of the season.
The blast did not rattle Hellickson, who retired the final five hitters he faced before Chad Qualls and Randy Choate combined on a scoreless away eighth.
Regular closer Rafael Soriano had pitched seven of the previous nine days, so Choate stayed on for the ninth and walked Cuddyer leading off the frame.
Jim Thome then went down swinging, and Dan Wheeler came in and threw one pitch to notch his third save of the season, as Danny Valencia bounced into a 1-6-3 double play to end it.
Game Notes: Twins catcher Joe Mauer sat for a second consecutive game after taking a cortisone shot in his right shoulder on Saturday...To make room for Hellickson, who was leading the International League with 12 wins, a 2.45 earned-run average and 123 strikeouts, the Rays placed pitcher Andy Sonnanstine on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain...Upton had three hits and three steals in the win...Tampa leads the season series, 4-1.