MINNEAPOLIS -- Through the first seven batters Saturday night, the Rays had four hits and nothing to show for it thanks to a pair of double plays, one that ended the first inning and another that appeared to take the steam out of the second.
But Jose Molina changed that with a single to right field that scored James Loney, and just like that, the game tilted decidedly in favor of the surging Rays.
Sean Rodriguez followed Molina’s hit with a long home run to left that landed in the second deck at Target Field and with David Price on the mound, the Rays were on their way to a 5-1 victory against the Twins.
“I got us the cushion, but (Molina is) the one who got us going,” Rodriguez said.
The J-Mo and Roddy Show drove in all five runs as the Rays won for the 13th time in their past 17 games.
Rodriguez’s home run was his 10th of the season, a career-high for the right-handed hitter who was in the lineup against Twins righty Phil Hughes because Rays manager Joe Maddon felt the combination of Rodriguez’s power plus Hughes’ penchant for giving up fly balls would be a good mix.
“I’m glad he was right,” Rodriguez said.
“I expect Roddy to do that whenever he’s playing,” Price said. “That’s what I expect of him. Jose’s had some big hits in the past two weeks as well. We expect all these guys to go out there and perform and everybody’s playing the way we feel like we should right now.”
Molina, who drove in two runs, extended his hitting streak to a season-high seven games and has driven in at least one run in each of his past three games, also a season-high.
Molina did not want to talk about himself after the game. Instead, he focused on the entire roster that has seen contributions from all 25 players during this stretch in which the Rays have pushed themselves into the conversation of playoff contenders.
“It’s huge,” Molina said. “We are 25 guys, 25 guys that are going to do something to help the team win. It could be from the bench, during the game, before, talking to a guy. It doesn’t have to be on the field.
“We’re having a great time with each other.”
And when you have Price pitching like the way he has, the three-run second would be enough.
Price extended his scoreless streak to 16 innings with eight scoreless frames and won his career-high fifth straight start.
“I didn’t know that,” he said. “That’s cool.”
Price has pitched at least eight innings in eight of his past 11 starts, a streak that has drawn comparisons to his Cy Young award-winning season in 2012.
“He’s right there right now,” Maddon said.
Said Price, “I’ve never been the pitcher I am now.”
Price, who is the big name as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches, is 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA in July. He struck out nine Saturday and did not walk a batter.
“When David gets the lead, he’s even tougher,” Molina said.
About the only thing the Rays did wrong Saturday was bounce into five double plays — one shy of the team record for a nine-inning game. They hit into six June 17, 2003, at Yankee Stadium.
It was the second time the Rays hit into five double plays this season. They also did it May 2 against the Yankees in New York, but they played 14 innings that night.
The Rays have won the first two games since returning from the All-Star break and clinched the series win against the Twins.
Both Maddon and Price said that is important, because the Rays often struggle following off days. This time they had four.
“A lot of times we are not that group,” Maddon said.
Said Price, “I just didn’t want the All-Star break to put us into a lull. It didn’t do it. It hasn’t yet, at least. To come out and play the way we have after the All-Star break is huge.”