Rays rally in the ninth to top Twins

Rays rally in the ninth to top Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- The "young" Tampa Bay Devil Rays may have become the "brash, young" Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Sunday afternoon at the Metrodome, when they erupted for four solid hits in the ninth inning against ace Minnesota closer Joe Nathan and stunned the Twins, 6-4, to split the four-game series.

When the game entered the ninth tied at 4, the Rays had plenty of reasons to feel good, even if they had lost the game, following their 12-5 loss on Saturday.

Akinori Iwamura ripped a lead-off double down the right-field line, and catcher Dioner Navarro duplicated it with another two-base shot down the line in right, breaking the tie and sending shockwaves through 27,024 fans. Carlos Pena, hitting in the No. 8 slot, singled sharply to center, with Navarro scoring, and the Devil Rays had their 6-4 lead. They added a single by Rocco Baldelli later in the inning before Nathan got out of further trouble.

No further trouble was necessary, though, as Al Reyes "out-closered" the Twins ace with a 1-2-3 ninth.

"The ride home will be a lot nicer," said Delmon Young, one of the brash Rays rookies who refused to settle for merely playing competitively on the day after a bad game. "[Saturday] was something that's going to happen to everybody, and it's nice to come back and get a split in the Metrodome, but it doesn't matter if we play in Puerto Rico or in Canada, we want to win.

"I got a fastball," said Young, of the 417-foot home run he blasted off the right-center football stand facing in the sixth. His blast was just one of the elements that fell into perfect order for the Rays on Sunday.

For example:

The Rays got a quality start from Jae Seo, who went seven innings, but was so frustrated with not holding a 4-2 lead in the seventh that he refused to comment to the media afterward.

They got an extension of a couple of impressive streaks, as Young extended his perfect 11-game hitting streak through every game this season in the most colorful way -- with a two-run home run in the sixth that was the first pitch Twins starter Boof Bonser threw to him, and the last pitch Bonser would be allowed in the game. The Devil Rays also have now hit at least one home run in all 11 games this season.

They struck for two of their three run-scoring rallies because of the bottom of the lineup. Along with the decisive ninth-inning rally, the first Tampa Bay run in the fifth was generated when Navarro, hitting seventh, hit a two-out single and scored when No. 9 hitter Jonny Gomes lined a single to center.

They got a perfect setup inning from Brian Stokes in the eighth and a perfect save from Reyes in the ninth, as he ended the game by getting Torii Hunter and Jason Kubel on called third strikes.

"It's nice when you go out there and do what you're supposed to do, for a change," said left fielder Carl Crawford, who wore Jackie Robinson's commemorative No. 42 in the game, referring to the club bouncing back from Saturday's blowout loss.

Seo, who was nicked for a run in the second when Justin Morneau doubled home Michael Cuddyer, and gave up another in the fifth when Kubel singled, stole second, and scored on one of Jason Bartlett's three hits out of the No. 9 batting spot, spent the rest of six innings to keep the Twins off-balance while his teammates came back.

"Hats off to Jae Seo," said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon. "I felt he could have pitched more, but it felt like the right thing to do to bring in Stokes and Reyes."

Stokes won his second game with his 1-2-3 eighth before the winning rally, and Reyes got his fourth save of the season, and now has saved all eight of his save opportunities over the last two seasons.

All of that was good, and the winning rally made it perfect.

"It was very nice to come back," Maddon said. "The dugout was good the whole time. I didn't see anybody hanging their heads. There was just a different vibe about the game. There's a lot of fight in this group.

"We did a lot of good situational hitting in the ninth. We have been working at having good at-bats. Pena, Gomes and Navarro all came up good. Nathan is so good, you know he'll get his 35 or so saves this year, but he's another guy you might want to attack early, because of his excellent slider and curve ball."

Young, who is now hitting .347 with three homers and 10 RBIs, was not surprised his teammates turned aggressive against Nathan.

"It's 4-4, man, we're gonna go up there hacking," he said.

John Gilbert is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.