The Big Ray Machine was back at it Friday night at Target Field, opening a three-game series against the Twins with one of those rare displays of offense. The twist was that it followed Thursday's rare display of offense.
Maybe the Rays weren't kidding when they said Evan Longoria's return would spark the offense.
The Rays pounded the Twins for a 12-6 victory, their fourth straight win since Sparky Longoria returned from the disabled list, and it came on the heals of the 13-hit attack that led to Thursday's 7-1 victory against the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.
It was the most runs the Rays scored in consecutive games this season since April 18-19, when they hung 19 in back-to-back wins against the Jays. That was before Longoria partially tore his left hamstring and missed 85 games.
The Rays, who scored six runs and were shut out twice in the four games before Longoria's return, have scored 26 runs on 42 hits since Sparky's return.
Friday's game, played on a delightful 76-degree night near the banks of the Mississippi River, began with a loud double to left field by Desmond Jennings on the first pitch. B.J. Upton moved Jennings to third with a fly ball to right field. From there, Jennings walked home when Matt Joyce lined his 13th home run of the season into the seats above the right-field wall.
With the way the Rays have been pitching, those two runs figured to be enough for another win. But Jeremy Hellickson wasn't sharp. He allowed three runs in five innings on seven hits and three walks.
It was the second straight start in which Hellickson failed to pitch at least six innings. He lasted only four in his previous start. But, having thrown 98 pitches through five and with the way the Rays were scoring runs, manager Joe Maddon decided to go to his bullpen.
J.P. Howell entered in the sixth and pitched one shutout inning. He allowed a leadoff walk and a two-out single but extended his consecutive scoreless streak 22 innings, matching the team record for a relief pitcher set earlier in the week by Fernando Rodney.
Howell wasn't pleased with himself as he walked off the mound. That two-out hit was the first hit he allowed since July 18.
The offense, though, took center stage, interrupting a run of story lines that had been dominated by the pitching.
The Rays batted around in the second inning and scored six times, matching their season-high for runs in an inning.
It began with a single to right field by Carlos Peña. Jeff Keppinger followed with a double. Peña scored the first run of the inning and the Rays' third run of the game when Ryan Roberts reached on a fielding error by Twins third baseman Jamey Carroll.
Jose Molina followed with an RBI single. Jennings had his second double in as many innings to score Roberts. A two-run double by Joyce gave him four RBIs for the night and the Rays a 7-1 lead.
Longoria made it 8-1 with an RBI single.
The Twins, who scored their first run in the first inning on a two-out double by Joe Mauer and a single by Josh Willingham, added another run in the third inning on a two-out single by Mauer.
Ryan Doumit's 13th home run of the season came in the fourth inning and made it an 8-3 game.
The Rays put the game away with a four-run sixth inning.
Keppinger started things with a one-out single. Roberts followed with a double to put runners at second and third for Molina.
Molina, who in the second inning delivered his first hit with a runner in scoring position since June 9, did it again, singling home both runners to give him three RBIs, matching his season-high. Add those three RBIs to Jose Lobaton's three RBIs on Thursday and the Rays catchers have driven in six runs in their past two games.
Jennings followed Molina's single with a walk. Both runners scored on B.J. Upton's double. Jennings was 3-for-4 with a walk and three runs scored.