MINNEAPOLIS — The Tampa Bay Rays are as surprised as anyone at how well they've played this season despite a long list of injuries.
"We're not really expecting to be above .500, but we are," Chris Archer said Sunday after limiting Minnesota to one run in an 11-3 win over the Twins.
Despite a disabled list that currently includes 10 players, the Rays are 21-18 and only a game behind New York in the AL East following the Yankees' loss to Kansas City on Sunday.
Archer threw six sharp innings for his first win this month, and Evan Longoria had three RBIs and two of the Rays season-high 19 hits.
James Loney drove in two runs for Tampa Bay, which used a five-run sixth to secure its fourth win in six games and avoid a three-game sweep. The Twins scored nine runs in their previous two wins against the Rays, but Archer (4-4) limited them to four hits and a walk.
"We're the resilient Rays," Archer said.
Archer showed some of his own resilience as well. His first half of May was rocky, and he entered the game with a 6.06 ERA for the month. On Sunday, though, he extended his club-record streak of allowing three or fewer earned runs to 16 road games.
He led off the game by walking Brian Dozier, who scored on Joe Mauer's single. Archer allowed only three batters to reach the rest of the way and improved to 4-0 with a 0.75 ERA in four career starts against Minnesota.
"Archer is nasty, that was his best stuff. Faced him numerous times and that was the best I've ever seen him," Dozier said.
Twins starter Kyle Gibson (3-3) allowed three runs on eight hits with two walks and a pair of strikeouts. Gibson had allowed one run in his last 24 innings, but continued his struggles against Tampa Bay. The Rays have scored 16 earned runs in their last 14 1-3 innings against Gibson, dating to last season.
"You win two of three, but that last game leaves a bad taste in your mouth," Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
The Rays led 3-1 in the sixth before Kevin Kiermaier started the five-run inning with a grounder off Brian Duensing that scored Nick Franklin. Michael Tonkin entered and hit Logan Forsythe on his second pitch to load the bases for Longoria, who knocked a two-run single to center. Loney and David DeJesus followed with RBI singles to make it 8-1.
"I definitely think we're capable offensively of doing good things," Longoria said, "and today it was pretty evident."
And they know it can be even better considering they're not even fully healthy.
"I think the way the guys have handled all the situations so far with the injuries to some really big important pieces, they've handled it really well and it's that much more exciting for us knowing that these guys are coming back or getting closer to being back," manager Kevin Cash said.
VARGAS SENT DOWN
After the game, Molitor said the Twins were sending slugger Kennys Vargas to Triple-A Rochester. On Sunday, he was left out of the starting lineup for the second straight game and was instead a late-inning replacement. Vargas has three hits in his last 12 at-bats and saw his batting average dip slightly to .248. Molitor said he was being sent down less to improve his mechanics, and more to work on his mental approach.
"It's more about what's going on in his head when he steps up into the batter's box," Molitor said. "He knows he has to do more than just take batting practice every day to contribute."
Twins: Molitor announced after the game that INF Eduardo Nunez (oblique) would be activated for Minnesota's upcoming interleague series at Pittsburgh. Before the game, GM Terry Ryan said RHP Casey Fien (shoulder) felt good after throwing a bullpen session Sunday and would likely throw another Wednesday. OF Oswaldo Arcia (hip flexor) could start working out on the field this week.
Rays: Franklin went 1 for 4 with a double in his first game back from a left oblique strain. He batted .318 in eight games during his rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham. Franklin hit a first-inning homer Saturday before being notified in the third he'd been called up. "It's been a little over a month, a month and a half, so I mean there's plenty of the season left," Franklin said before the game.
LHP Jake McGee made his season debut following December elbow surgery, pitching a scoreless seventh with two strikeouts. He threw 14 pitches, nine strikes.
"It was good to get out there and feel good and throw strikes and get ahead of guys," McGee said.
Rays: have Monday off before starting a two-game interleague series at Atlanta. After Sunday's game, Cash announced Erasmo Ramirez (1-1) would get Tuesday's start, while Jake Odorizzi (3-3) would take the mound Wednesday.
Twins: begin a two-game interleague series Tuesday at Pittsburgh. RHP Ricky Nolasco (3-1) faces ex-Twins ace Francisco Liriano (1-3). Liriano pitched seven seasons with the Twins.
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