Josh Willingham's seventh-inning double helps Twins rally for victory
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Josh Willingham kept his hot stretch going with a hit at the perfect time.
Willingham extended his season-opening hitting streak to 14 games with a go-ahead three-run double in the seventh inning, and the Minnesota Twins beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 on Friday night.
"Another big night for our left fielder, what's his name? ... Willingham," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said with a smile. "I seem to be calling that name out an awful lot. He's fun to watch. He's been on the baseball, that's for sure."
Said Willingham: "I was just battling. That was a 1-2 count. I was looking for anything. I was trying to see the ball out of his hand. Just reacted to the fastball."
The Twins also got two RBI from Joe Mauer, who went 2-for-3 with two walks. Mauer is 31-for-70 overall at Tropicana Field.
"For whatever reason I see the ball pretty good here," Mauer said. "So hopefully I can continue that the next couple days."
Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce homered for the Rays. Longoria had a homer and four RBI in Tampa Bay's 9-4 victory Thursday night in Toronto.
"They just beat us," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "They got the hit that they needed, we did not and they won. So we just have to move on."
After Tampa Bay tied it with a run on Carlos Pena's bases-loaded double-play grounder in the sixth, Longoria gave Tampa Bay a 4-2 lead with a two-run shot off Twins starter Liam Hendriks.
Mauer had put the Twins ahead 2-0 with RBI singles in the first and fifth. Joyce cut the Rays' deficit to 2-1 during the fifth on his fourth homer of the season.
"We're never out of it until the 27th out is recorded," Mauer said. "It's a big difference between this year and last year. Guys keep fighting, keep swinging the bats and that's what you got to do."
Hendriks gave up four runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. Tampa Bay's Matt Moore gave up three runs and eight hits over 6 1/3 innings.
Brandon Gomes (0-1) replaced Moore and was charged with two runs, one hit and a walk without recording an out. Twins reliever Matt Maloney (1-0) retired all three batters he faced.
Matt Capps pitched the ninth for his fourth save.
Mauer flied out to left field with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, bringing up Willingham.
Willingham, signed as a free agent this offseason, cleared the bases with his double off Rays reliever Joel Peralta, scoring Alexi Casilla, Denard Span and Jamey Carroll and giving the Twins a lead they would not relinquish.
14: Consecutive games in which Willingham has a hit. That puts him one shy of tying Kirby Puckett's franchise mark of hitting safely in 15 consecutive games to open a season. Puckett accomplished the feat to start the 1994 season.
Twins first baseman and designated hitter Justin Morneau was out of the lineup Friday after fouling a ball off his right foot Thursday night in New York. Morneau, however, was available off the bench. "Everything is fine," Gardenhire said. "It's pretty sore. I didn't see any reason to put him out there on this (artificial) surface. It's pretty hard. I expect him to be back out there (Saturday).
Saturday: @ Tampa Bay, 6:10 p.m. Twins RHP Carl Pavano (1-1, 5.23 ERA) vs. RHP James Shields (2-0, 3.38)© The Associated Press