ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Zach Eflin pitched into the seventh inning and earned his eighth win, Luke Raley tripled and homered, and the MLB-best Tampa Bay Rays beat the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins 7-0 on Tuesday night.
Eflin (8-1) scattered three hits and struck out nine over 6 2/3 innings. Only teammate Shane McClanahan (9-1) has more wins in the majors.
“They threw a guy that’s having one of the better seasons on the mound of anyone in the American League,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “That sinker and cutter, and curveball combo he has going the way he wants right now. He threw a ton of strikes. He looked like he was pounding the zone.”
Eflin is 7-0 with a 1.85 ERA in seven home starts.
“He’s just a really good pitcher that knows how to execute pitches at a level that’s really, really high.” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Raley got his first career three-base hit, coming in his 102nd big league game, and scored in a three-run fourth. In the fifth inning, he connected on a two-run shot off Louie Varland (3-2) that made it 5-0.
“It feels good to put some runs on the board for Eflin,” Raley said. “I mean, he was absolutely incredible today.”
Jose Siri added a solo shot in the seventh inning and Randy Arozarena drove in two runs for the Rays (44-19), who are 27-6 at home. Tampa Bay is 11-0 in home series openers, the best run since the 2013 Detroit Tigers (13 straight), according the Elias Sports Bureau.
Varland, coming off seven shutout innings in a win at Houston on Wednesday, gave up seven runs and six hits in six-plus innings as Minnesota dropped to 31-30.
“I felt decent. … Just a bad day,” Varland said.
Twins shortstop Carlos Correa, who reaggravated the plantar fasciitis in his left foot on Thursday, returned to the lineup. He had a double and struck out three times.
The Twins were limited to four hits in a game that took 2 hours, 7 minutes.
“It was a tough day all around,” Baldelli said.
Minnesota’s Byron Buxton was placed on the 10-day injured list with a bruised left rib.
Buxton, an All-Star last year, is hitting .220 with 10 homers and 23 RBIs in 50 games this season. He was hurt on Thursday, when he was hit by a pitch from Guardians rookie Tanner Bibee.
“The pain is still there,” Baldelli said. “It’s a serious contusion. The initial scans say no break. He’s banged up pretty good.”
One of baseball’s fastest players, the oft-injured Buxton has spent most of his career in center field, but the Twins have limited him to designated hitter this season in an attempt to keep him healthy.
Twins minor league RHP Cory Lewis, who taught himself the knuckleball at age 10, has been promoted from Single-A Fort Myers to High-A Cedar Rapids.
The Rays got international bonus pool money from Atlanta for minor league reliever Ben Heller, who was assigned to Triple-A Gwinnett. Heller last pitched in the majors on Sept. 4, 2020, for the New York Yankees.
Twins: OF Trevor Larnach (pneumonia) was activated from the IL. … INF Royce Lewis, involved in a collision at first base on Sunday, was out of the lineup. … RHP Chris Paddack (Tommy John surgery) has started throwing off a mound and could be back in September.
Rays: LHP Josh Fleming (left elbow inflammation) went on the 15-day injured list. He got a cortisone shot and will get a second opinion.
Minnesota RHP Pablo López (3-3) will start Wednesday night’s game against the Rays. Tampa Bay RHP Shwan Armstrong (0-0) will open and RHP Cooper Criswell (1-1) will likely follow.