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TB@MIN: Joyce smashes a two-run shot in the first

MINNEAPOLIS -- Teammates and coaches say Evan Longoria's mere presence in the Rays' lineup has a contagious effect on the rest of the team. The last few games back up their words.

With Longoria starting his fourth straight game since returning from injury, Tampa Bay tallied 13 hits to take a 12-6 win over the Twins at Target Field for its fourth-straight victory, the Rays' longest streak since June 7-10. The Rays have also won nine of their last 12 games.

The Rays' 19 runs in their last two games are their most in any two-game stretch since April 18-19, when they totaled 21 runs in two games against Toronto.

Longoria went 1-for-3 with an RBI single and a walk before Sean Rodriguez pinch-ran for him in the sixth. But Matt Joyce -- batting in front of Longoria -- was the biggest star in the explosive offensive performance. Joyce went 2-for-4 with a two-run home run and bashed a two-run double to lead Tampa Bay's six-run second inning and extend his hitting streak to nine games.

"Obviously, [Longoria] has a pretty big impact on everyone else in the lineup," Joyce said. "When you add one of the game's best hitters, it impacts the players around him. It helps you to relax. It helps you to gain that confidence that you're going to score runs.

"For me, it's great to hit in front of a guy like that. They don't want to walk me to get to him. They're going to give me pitches to hit."

Longoria is hitting .333 (5-for-15) in four games since being activated from the disabled list. His team has scored 26 runs over those games.

"Some people argue that [a trickle-down effect] could happen with economics," manager Joe Maddon said. "It could also happen within a baseball team, too. I like the trickle-down effect. I think it has impacted the bottom of the order. Longo's presence has made a difference. He's been the spark, not the savior."

The six runs in the second matched a single-inning high for the Rays this season. It also spelled the end of a short outing for Minnesota starter Cole De Vries, who lasted just 1 1/3 innings after giving up seven earned runs on seven hits, including Joyce's two-run homer in the first.

"It was an ambush job tonight," De Vries' said of Tampa Bay's approach. "They were attacking early and not allowing me to get to my gameplan. It kind of threw me off my game, but that happens sometimes."

Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson wasn't at his best, giving up three earned runs on seven hits and needing 98 pitches to get through five innings. But the support he got from his offense rendered his mediocre performance irrelevant.

Despite the rough outing, Hellickson is still 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA in his last four starts.

"You just try to go out there and get ahead of guys and throw first-pitch strikes," Hellickson said. "I definitely struggled throwing strikes tonight. But when guys give me that lead, I just have to be better at getting ahead and finishing guys off.

The onslaught against De Vries started almost immediately, as Desmond Jennings led off the game with a double. He scored on Joyce's home run.

Carlos Pena, Jeff Keppinger, Jose Molina, Jennings, Joyce, and Longoria all collected hits in the big second inning. Joyce's double came on the last pitch De Vries would throw, but reliever Jeff Manship didn't fare better right away, allowing Longoria's RBI single to make it 8-1. Manship finally induced a double play from Ben Zobrist in the next at-bat to end the inning.

The Rays' bats temporarily cooled off from there, as Manship settled in to retire 11 straight batters. But Keppinger's one-out single in the sixth re-ignited Tampa Bay's offense.

Ryan Roberts followed with a double and Molina added a two-run single. Jennings walked, prompting Minnesota to bring in Luis Perdomo, but B.J. Upton welcomed him by tagging a two-run double for a 12-3 lead.

Jennings, Joyce and Molina combined for six hits, two walks, eight RBIs and seven runs

"We came out swinging the bats really well," Maddon said. "We struck the ball, hit the ball hard. Up and down the order. It was great to see that. There was a real good energy about us before the game tonight."

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