One win won't erase the bad taste from an ugly 2-5 road trip, but the Rays' 5-3 victory against the Twins on Friday night was a start.
James Shields turned in another strong start at home, and Carl Crawford hit a solo home run and Evan Longoria a three-run shot as Tampa Bay ended a season-high five-game losing streak.
Willy Aybar drove in an insurance run in the eighth inning, and Randy Choate, promoted from Triple-A Durham on Monday, struck out red-hot Joe Mauer with one on in the bottom of the ninth to end the game.
"We had a tough go up in Cleveland, and that stuff happens during a major-league season," Joe Maddon said. "I'm amused sometimes when people really get concerned about different things. You're going to lose games in a row."
The win didn't come without some anxious moments, including a scare involving first baseman Carlos Pena in the eighth inning on an errant throw from third baseman Longoria.
Pena had to reach into the baseline for the throw, and Michael Cuddyer, who had hit a ground ball down the third-base line, ran into his arm. After being examined by the Rays staff, Pena remained in the game.
"It was just fast and furious, and it kind of tweaked him," Maddon said. "Hark [assistant trainer Paul Harker] went out there and did the battery of tests, and he was fine."
Shields (4-4), who pitched 8 1/3 innings of shutout ball in his last home start May 19 against Oakland only to watch the Rays lose in extra innings, left this one with a 4-1 lead after allowing a lead-off triple to Mauer in the eighth. Mauer scored on a sacrifice fly by Justin Morneau against J.P. Howell, and the Twins picked up an additional unearned run after Longoria's error to cut the Rays' lead go 4-3.
Although he hadn't won since May 4, Shields had received only 12 runs of support in 47 1/3 innings pitched since April 22. The Rays had lost six of his seven starts during that span.
Still, the right-hander improved to 23-9 with a 3.19 ERA in 49 career starts at home.
"There were counts where it looked like we were getting ahead, and he was able to flip that breaking ball over just about any time he wanted to," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He made it very tough on us. He was like a bulldog out there."
Said Shields, who pitched a shutout until Cuddyer hit a solo home run in the sixth, "We played some great defense today, and [Dioner Navarro] did a great job behind the plate. He doesn't get enough credit back there for the way he called the game."
Longoria, the major-league RBI leader with 54, had three hits and three RBIs. He has two home runs in his last three games (13 for the year) after going a career-long 16 games without one.
B.J. Upton and Crawford each had a pair of hits.
"I just felt like we needed it real bad because we lost five in a row and everything was feeling bad around here," Crawford said. "We just needed something to pick us up."