MINNEAPOLIS -- With games remaining against the contending Rays, A's, Tigers and Indians, the Twins have the chance to play the role of spoilers down the stretch the rest of this season.
But the Twins haven't been doing their part in recent days, losing two straight to the A's before running into a wall offensively against the Rays on Friday night.
Kevin Correia bounced back after a shaky outing his last time out to register a quality start, but the Twins were shut out by the Rays in a 3-0 loss at Target Field. He was outdueled by Rays right-hander Chris Archer, who scattered just three hits over six scoreless innings.
"Correia did a really nice job, but their guy was better," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Their guy didn't give us many opportunities, and the ones we did have, we had called third strikes and too many punchouts for our baseball team."
Correia, who gave up five runs in his last start on Saturday against the Blue Jays, fared well on an extra day of rest. The right-hander went six-plus innings, giving up three runs on eight hits and a walk with five strikeouts.
He now has a 2.87 ERA over his last seven outings, and a 4.31 ERA in a team-high 29 starts this season.
"I kept us in the game up until the seventh there," Correia said. "That's my job to keep us in the game and give us an opportunity to win, and I thought I did that for the most part."
The Rays struck early with a run in the second inning on a two-out RBI single from Desmond Jennings to score Wil Myers, who reached on a hard-hit line drive for a double that was misplayed by Clete Thomas in right field.
Tampa Bay scored again in the third, when Yunel Escobar opened the inning with a double and scored on a two-out single from James Loney.
Correia settled down until running into trouble again in the seventh. Jose Molina led off with a double to left field before scoring on a double from Escobar off second baseman Brian Dozier's glove. Correia then gave up a single to David DeJesus to put runners at the corners with nobody out.
The Twins opted to bring in left-handed reliever Caleb Thielbar, who was able to get out of the jam unscathed. Ben Zobrist tried to advance the runners with a sacrifice bunt, but popped it up to first baseman Chris Parmelee, who was able to get Escobar at third for a double play before DeJesus was picked off first with Loney at the plate.
"That was the Houdini act," Correia said. "What did he throw? Three pitches? And he got three outs. I came out thinking, 'If he allows just one run to score, he did a good job.' So for him not to allow any runs in that situation is an unbelievable job by him."
But the strong performance by the pitching staff was wasted, as the Twins struggled to mount any offense against Archer. Archer allowed just four hitters to reach base and struck out seven, including three looking, to see his ERA drop to 3.03 in 20 starts on the year. He credited his changeup for his success.
"I've had games where it's been decent, but tonight it was the best it's been in my career," Archer said. "They always put a lot of lefties against me, and I think tonight the difference was me having something a little slower to show them instead of hard fastball, hard slider."
Minnesota's biggest scoring chance came in the fifth, when Parmelee singled and Darin Mastroianni was hit by a pitch to put two runners on with one out. But Archer was able to get both Thomas and Eduardo Escobar to strike out looking to get out of the inning.
"You have to defend the plate with two strikes," Gardenhire said. "You have to swing the bat. We had too many guys taking pitches like that."
Relievers Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney combined to shut down the Twins over the final three innings to hand Minnesota its 12th shutout of the year. The Twins also struck out 11 times on the night to mark the 55th time this year they've struck out more than 10 times in a game.
"You have to tip your caps to their pitching staff over there," Gardenhire said. "[McGee] was throwing petrol, and Peralta -- we know we he's got -- and then Rodney. So that's a pretty good group after a starter who threw as well as he did."