MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ On the last day for fans to make their All-Star game picks, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon offered a final plug for his track-star-fast left fielder Carl Crawford.
Crawford’s exposure is low playing for the Rays, but the Minnesota Twins don’t need a scouting report.
Willy Aybar’s single off Matt Guerrier gave the Rays a 10th-inning lead in a back-and-forth 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night, after Crawford cruised from first to home with the tying run on Evan Longoria’s two-out double in the ninth.
“Just wanted to try to get back to grinding out the games and playing hard all the way to the end,” Crawford said.
Jon Rauch blew a save for the fourth time this season when Crawford _ who had four hits, a stolen base and an RBI _ stuck his bat out on a 2-2 fastball from Rauch for a single to keep the game going. Then Longoria crushed a 2-2 fastball to left, the opportunity for Crawford to use his special speed and score.
“I was just on deck praying that C.C. would get on again and give me another chance,” Longoria said.
Rauch said the pitch to Crawford was right where he wanted it, down and away.
“He got the end of the bat on it and hit it up the middle,” Rauch said, adding: I got beat. That’s it. Sometimes that happens.”
Crawford was third among AL outfielders in the most recently released voting results this week.
“If he was able to be able to be seen more nationally, it would be a slam dunk,” Maddon said before the game. “He toils a little bit in the obscurity of where we work. I would really not understand why he would not be voted in. He’s the kind of baseball player everybody likes to watch.”
Jeff Niemann, who watched the Rays get no-hit in his last start by Arizona’s Edwin Jackson, has finished at least the sixth in 15 straight starts. Lance Cormier (3-1) pitched a perfect ninth, and Rafael Soriano picked up his 20th save.
Delmon Young homered, drove in two runs and prevented another with an inning-ending outfield assist against his former team, but Carl Pavano took his first no-decision of the season and his top two relievers _ Rauch and Guerrier (1-3) _ didn’t hold up at the end.
“You can point your finger at Jon _ he gave up that one run _ but earlier in the game it’s my job to close the door,” said Pavano, who gave up two two-out runs. He added: “I cost us the game.”
Shortstop Nick Punto cost Pavano an unearned run with a two-out error in the fifth.
Pavano’s performance in June, featuring four straight wins and consecutive complete-game victories on the road, was about the only bright spot of a borderline bad month for Minnesota.
Pavano might owe it all to the mustache. He got rid of the goatee and left the above-the-lip hair after a terrible start at Toronto on May 18, and since then he’s 5-2 with a 2.64 ERA in eight starts and averaging just under eight innings per turn.
The awkward-looking, Inspector Clouseau-like mustache is threatening to surpass Joe Mauer’s trademark sideburns in popularity, too. Fans are showing up at the stadium with replicas, and one young man proudly pointed to his when pictured on the jumbo video screen.
Pavano’s scoreless innings streak ended at 16 in the fourth, but Young _ the formerly troubled prodigy who was traded by the Rays to the Twins before the 2008 season _ fielded Aybar’s single and fired a perfect throw to Mauer at the plate to get Matt Joyce on a close play and end the inning.
Mauer started the eighth inning with a double to right and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jason Kubel, giving the Twins the lead that Rauch lost. Mauer hit three straight balls hard and deep to left, all caught by Crawford, and his batting average dipped below .300 briefly for the first time since April 7.
During the second at-bat, Mauer tried to drop a bunt down the third base line, but it drifted foul.
NOTES: Crawford leads the majors with seven four-hit games. … The Rays kept CF B.J. Upton out of the lineup for a third straight game. Upton, who has a sore right quadriceps muscle, was available to play if needed, Maddon said. … Twins RHP Kevin Slowey might switch spots with Pavano in the rotation for an extra day to rest his sore right ankle. … Twins IF Matt Tolbert’s right middle finger is hurting after he fielded a ball in Wednesday’s game, and he could go on the DL. … Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected in the 10th for arguing. Young’s throw to third base beat Kelly Shoppach by a few yards, but umpire Alfonso Marquez ruled Michael Cuddyer didn’t tag him. Replays suggested otherwise.