MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Chris Archer pitched six scoreless innings and the Tampa Bay Rays added to their slim wild-card lead by beating the Minnesota Twins 3-0 on Friday night.
The Rays hold the second wild-card spot with four teams still in striking range. They nudged their edge to 1½ games over Cleveland, due to a loss by New York that pushed the Yankees to two games back. Baltimore (2½ games behind) and Kansas City (3½) are lurking, too.
Archer (9-7) scattered three singles and struck out seven without a walk, following a pair of rough outings for the rookie right-hander to start September.
Yunel Escobar had an RBI double among his three hits for the Rays, and Desmond Jennings and James Loney drove in runs with singles against Kevin Correia (9-12).
After losing 13 of 17 games, the Rays picked up an important victory Thursday night over AL East-leading Boston on a tiebreaking eighth-inning double by rookie standout Wil Myers.
The Rays started their weekend reprieve against the floundering Twins before 11 straight games against wild-card competitors Texas, the Orioles and Yankees.
Tampa Bay has won 10 straight games against the Twins, including five this year. The Twins have lost 15 of their last 18 home games.
Archer took advantage of the weakened Twins lineup, missing star Joe Mauer and a whole lot more, and never let a runner advance past second base. In the fifth inning, he hit Darin Mastroianni with a pitch to put two on with one out.
But Archer retired Clete Thomas and Eduardo Escobar on called third strikes, skipping off the mound and pumping his arm with a clenched fist on his way to the dugout.
Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney each pitched a scoreless inning in relief, and Rodney recorded his 35th save in 43 tries with a perfect ninth.
Correia is the only starting pitcher the Twins have under contract for next season, and at $4.5 million the 33-year-old right-hander has at least given the team good value for the deal he signed as a free agent last December. Correia leads the Twins in wins, starts, innings and strikeouts.
Correia left with no outs and two on in the seventh, and reliever Caleb Thielbar escaped with a popped-up bunt by Ben Zobrist that became a double play and a pickoff throw that caught David DeJesus stealing.
NOTES: Mauer felt good working out for the second straight day, and general manager Terry Ryan said the team will consider taking him on the road next week. Mauer last played on Aug. 19 when he sustained a concussion. “As soon as he’s ready we’re going to get him out there,” Ryan said. … RHP Jesse Crain, who has yet to pitch for the Rays since being acquired in a July trade with the White Sox because of a shoulder problem, threw a strong bullpen session, according to manager Joe Maddon. Crain, a Twins reliever for seven seasons, might be ready for game action next week. “The thing I like about Jesse and the way he’s done all of this, he’s been absolutely honest about how he’s felt,” Maddon said. “I know his face can’t hide how he feels, and that’s a good thing.” … Twins RHP Samuel Deduno will have minor clean-up surgery on his shoulder next Wednesday. He went 8-8 with a 3.83 ERA in 18 starts this season. … Tampa Bay LHP Matt Moore (15-3, 3.18 ERA) will try to extend his seven-game winning streak on Saturday against rookie LHP Andrew Albers (2-2, 3.35 ERA). … Zobrist became the Rays’ leader in career walks, passing Carlos Pena on the franchise list.