Rays roll over Ortiz in big-hitting third, top Twins

Turning Point: Baldelli blasted a two-run homer off Ramon Ortiz during a four-run third that put the Devil Rays ahead 4-1.

Hero: Shields worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth by striking out Joe Mauer and getting Morneau to ground into a double play.

Figure this: The Devil Rays have won just five of the past 22 games against Minnesota.

Elias Says: The Devil Rays have been in second place this many games into a season only once before (they've never been in first place this late in a season). In 1999, the Rays were in second through 32 games, with a 17-15 record.

-- ESPN.com news services

Devil Rays 6, Twins 4

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon called it a "growth moment" when James Shields worked out of a difficult situation midway through the game.

Shields gave up three runs over 7 1-3 innings and Rocco Baldelli had a two-run homer as Tampa Bay beat the Minnesota Twins 6-4 on Thursday night.

Shields (3-0) allowed nine hits, including singles to the final two batters he faced in the eighth. He worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth by striking out Joe Mauer and getting Justin Morneau to hit into a double play.

"He kept his composure very nicely," Maddon said. "Made some wonderful pitches. Another wonderful performance."

Shields struck out eight and walked two. His 45 strikeouts tie him for the AL lead with Minnesota's Johan Santana.

With the victory, Tampa Bay (13-15) moved into a second-place tie in the AL East with Toronto. The Devil Rays have never finished higher than fourth in franchise history.

"It's awesome," Shields said. "It's always fun to win."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was impressed by Shields.

"He was really tough on us," Gardenhire said. "He made some big pitches through pretty good hitters. You can't ask much more out of a young pitcher than that."

Baldelli homered off Ramon Ortiz (3-2) during a four-run third that put the Devil Rays ahead 4-1.

The Twins closed to 5-4 in the eighth on Jason Tyner's sacrifice fly and run-scoring singles by Jason Bartlett and Nick Punto off Shawn Camp. Al Reyes pitched the ninth for his 10th save in as many chances.

After Baldelli's homer in the third, Tampa Bay loaded the bases with no outs on two singles and a throwing error by Ortiz to second base on a potential double-play grounder by Ty Wigginton.

B.J. Upton followed with an RBI single and Carlos Pena hit a sacrifice fly. The Devil Rays are 2-for-11 with the bases loaded -- with both hits by Upton -- and less than two outs this season. Upton is 14-for-25 with runners in scoring position.

Tampa Bay took two of three in the series. The Devil Rays have won just five of the past 22 games against Minnesota.

Minnesota's Torii Hunter extended his hitting streak to a career-high 18 games with an eighth-inning single. Ortiz allowed five runs and seven hits in four innings. He is 6-2 in 11 career starts against Tampa Bay.

This (Tampa Bay) lineup is pretty scary," Mauer said. "A lot of them have a lot of pop, so if you miss your spot they can make you pay."

Carl Crawford made it 5-1 on a fourth-inning RBI double. It appeared that Crawford would get a triple, but he stumbled and fell after rounding second base and had return to second after getting up.

"I got caught looking back too much, and my feet didn't catch up this time," Crawford said. "My feet usually catch up. They didn't catch up this time."

Pena hit his fifth homer, a solo shot in the eighth to give the Devil Rays a 6-4 lead. One day after having a foul ball get stuck on a catwalk and later getting an infield single that struck the overhanging structure, Pena's estimated 420-foot drive to center hit another catwalk.

"It's funny how it happened today," Pena said.

The Twins took a 1-0 lead on Morneau's sacrifice fly in the first.

Game notes
X-rays taken on Minnesota RF Michael Cuddyer (bruised back) were negative. He was hurt after stumbling and then doing a forward roll between second and third Tuesday. "It's sorer today than it was yesterday," Gardenhire said. ... Minnesota LHP Dennys Reyes has been slowed by a tender left shoulder, leaving his status for Friday's game against Boston undetermined. "We'll see where he's at tomorrow," Gardenhire said. ... Twins RHP Juan Rincon has experienced elbow soreness and will have his status determined daily. ... Tampa Bay minor league RHP Wade Townsend, taken in the first round of the 2005 draft, left his start Wednesday for Class-A Columbus with arm sorness after three innings. The Devil Rays don't believe the problem is serious. Townsend missed last season after undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery. ... Mauer struck out twice in consecutive games for just the third time in his career.