The Tampa Bay Rays have zoomed to the top of the wild card standings, but the way they are playing, the American League East title could be in reach. The Rays will try for their sixth straight victory when they visit the Minnesota Twins on Sunday in the finale of a three-game series. Tampa Bay and Oakland lead a tight pack in the American League wild card race by one-half game over Baltimore and Detroit. Los Angeles is 1 1/2 games behind. The Rays are six games behind New York with six games remaining against the Yankees. Tampa Bay, which received another strong pitching performance from David Price Saturday, has an incredible 2.35 team ERA since the All-Star break and is 16-11 during that span.
The Rays, who average 4.1 runs per game, have scored 30 during their winning streak, including 16 in the first two contests of their series with the Twins. Matt Joyce is 6-for-15 with three homers and six RBIs in four games against the Twins this season, including a homer in Saturday’s 4-2 victory. Tampa Bay’s James Shields has won his last two starts and has allowed only one run during that stretch. He will oppose rookie Scott Diamond, who has a team-leading 12 quality starts and is the Twins’ first 10-game winner since 2010. The Twins have lost three straight after winning five of six.
Rays Twins Betting
When: 2:10 PM ET, Sunday, August 12, 2012
Where: Target Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota
TV: 2:10 p.m. ET, Sun Sports (Tampa Bay), FS North (Minnesota)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Rays RH James Shields (10-7, 4.08 ERA) vs. Twins LH Scott Diamond (10-5, 2.91)
Shields allowed one run, two hits and struck out six in eight innings in Tampa Bay’s 2-1 victory over Toronto on Tuesday. He was even better in his previous outing, a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts in an 8-0 victory at Oakland on July 31 for seventh career shutout among his 17 complete games. Shields is 4-2 in 10 starts against Minnesota, including a 4-1 victory April 21 when he struck out seven in eight innings. The Twins’ roster is hitting .281 against him, with Joe Mauer 10-for-25 (three RBIs) and Justin Morneau 9-for-26 (homer, four RBIs).
Diamond, who has alternated wins and losses in his last five starts, allowed three runs (two earned) and seven hits in seven innings in the Twins’ 14-3 victory at Cleveland on Monday. The 26-year-old Canadian, who has 62 strikeouts against only 16 walks, has been Minnesota’s most dependable starter since joining the rotation May 8. He is 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA at Target Field. Diamond has never faced the Rays or any of their players.
1. Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney set a team record with his 20th consecutive save Saturday.
2. The Twins’ Trevor Plouffe was sharp at third base but went 0-for-4 in first rehab game for Triple-A Rochester on Saturday. Plouffe, who has missed the last 20 games with a thumb injury, is second on the team with 19 home runs.
3. Tampa Bay tied a club record with its 10th straight errorless game Saturday.