ST. PETERSBURG - Kelly Johnson was in the lineup Tuesday because his manager felt he needed to play. Simple as that. Johnson was in and rookie Wil Myers was out. And that's how the slumping Johnson found himself batting in a big moment during the bottom of the fourth inning. "You can't question the Matrix," Johnson said.
No, not after Johnson delivered a two-run double that put the finishing touches on a four-run inning in the Rays' 4-1 victory against the Twins in front of 12,777 fans at Tropicana Field. Johnson's double followed a two-out, two-run single by Matt Joyce that provided all the offense winning pitcher Chris Archer would need. "Honestly, it feels great," Joyce said. "Everyone wants to come through with the big hit, drive in the runs to get the rally started." The Rays are rolling through this non-challenging part of the schedule. Tuesday's win improved their record to 8-1 during this 14-game stretch against the Astros, White Sox and Twins. The victory was the Rays' 10th in 11 games and moved their record to a season-high 11 games over .500. Add the Orioles' loss to the Rangers and the second-place Rays have a two-game lead over the third-place Orioles. "I think right now that we are starting to play up to our capabilities," Maddon said. "We've lost too many games earlier in the season where we pretty much had them in tow and gave them up. "But now we're getting to the point where we're locking them down." It helps when the starting pitching is as lock-down as it has been during this run, which began on the previous homestand when the Rays won four of six against the Blue Jays and Tigers. "It's awesome. It's beyond awesome," Johnson said. It's as if the Rays starters are passing the baton to each other, one big relay race up through the division standings. "Since David (Price) came back, it looks like a whole different staff," Archer said. "All of us have been above average, so I think he's definitely our anchor and it's shown." Archer, throwing what Maddon said was his best fastball of the season, allowed three hits in six innings. He gave up an unearned run in the sixth inning when he hit leadoff hitter Brian Dozer then threw wildly past first base on a pickoff attempt. Dozer crossed over to third base on the error and scored on a sacrifice fly. The throwing error snapped a nine-game errorless streak by the Rays. The club record for errorless games is 10. Maddon called on Alex Torres in the seventh to get the rookie work in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Torres pitched a perfect seventh inning in Monday's win against the Twins. He was perfect again Tuesday with two strikeouts. Jake McGee pitched a perfect eighth inning and Fernando Rodney allowed two singles to start the ninth but struck out the next three for his 21st save. It was a game Rays fans are getting used to watching - good pitching and big hits. This time, the hits came from a pair of struggling left-handers. Joyce's hit produced his first RBI since June 15, snapping a span of 71 plate appearances without an RBI. Johnson had 12 hits in his last 93 at-bats as he walked to the plate. But as Maddon said, his plan is to keep everyone involved, because when he does that, good things tend to happen. "We're all ready to play," Johnson said. "You never know when your name is going to get called. "It makes it fun. When things are rolling, things are going good. I'm glad to contribute."