ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — The Minnesota Twins took over the second AL wild-card lead using both long and small ball against one of the majors' top pitchers.
Eduardo Escobar homered twice and Joe Mauer had a tiebreaking RBI single as Minnesota beat Chris Archer and the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 Wednesday night for the Twins' sixth consecutive win.
Minnesota has its longest winning streak away from home since a six-game stretch Aug. 14-26, 2007. The Twins, 6-3 entering the final game of a 10-game trip Thursday night, lead Texas by one-half game for the final AL playoff spot.
"It was one of those games that we had to stay with it," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "You're facing one of the higher-end caliber guys as far as rotation guys you see in the league."
Escobar hit solo shots in the sixth and eighth innings, with the second one making 5-3.
"Kind of surprising," Escobar said of his first multihomer game.
Mauer had a bases-loaded single and Trevor Plouffe hit a sacrifice fly as the Twins took a 4-2 lead in the seventh.
Archer (11-10) left with no outs in that inning after walking Shane Robinson, and giving up consecutive bunt singles to Byron Buxton and Brian Dozier.
Archer, who entered 4-0 with an 0.74 ERA in four starts against Minnesota, allowed four runs and nine hits over his six-plus innings. He struck out 12 and walked one.
Brian Duensing (4-0) replaced Twins starter Tyler Duffey with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth, and retired Daniel Nava and pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer to preserve a 2-2 tie. Kevin Jepsen pitched the ninth for his eighth save.
Minnesota closer Glen Perkins was unavailable due to lower back spasms.
"It's not going to be long," Perkins said. "It kind of locked up on me on Sunday. I think today we got over the hump."
Evan Longoria had his first homer since Aug. 7 to get the Rays within 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh.
Duffey worked out of bases loaded and two-out jams in both the fourth and fifth innings. The rookie gave up two runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his fourth career start.
"A disappointing loss to say the least," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We've talked about it time and time again, when we get opportunities to score, we've got to somehow find a way to get those guys across. We did not."
Kevin Kiermaier hit his 12th triple this season and scored to put Tampa Bay up 2-1 on Grady Sizemore's single during the fifth.
Nava got the Rays first hit, a leadoff homer in the fourth to make it 1-0. It was his first homer since last Sept. 14 at Kansas City while with Boston.
The Twins tied it at 1 on Dozier's fifth-inning RBI grounder.
Duffey got defensive help in the third from right fielder Eddie Rosario, who threw out the speedy Kiermaier as he tried to advance from second to third on Rene Rivera's one-out flyball.
Twins: OF Aaron Hicks (strained left hamstring) will likely play in a few minor league games before his expected return early next month.
Rays: OF Desmond Jennings (bruised left knee) was out of the lineup and is day to day.
Mauer is 4 for 5 with 6 RBIs with the bases loaded and less than two outs. ... He has reached base in 28 of 29 games at Tropicana Field. He has 46 hits in 114 at-bats at the ballpark after going 3 for 5 Wednesday night.
Escobar has a career-high seven homers this season ... He had two multihomer games in the minors, coming in 2010 and 2011.
Twins: Tommy Milone (6-3) will start the series finale Thursday night. The left-hander was pressed into service to help a depleted bullpen last Sunday and got his first professional save by working a perfect inning in a 4-3, 12-inning win at Baltimore.
Rays: LHP Drew Smyly (1-2) makes his third start Thursday since returning from a left shoulder injury.