ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — After winning six straight on the road, the Minnesota Twins headed back to Target Field one run short of another sweep.
Relievers Brandon Gomes, Alex Colome and Brad Boxberger combined for 4 2-3 scoreless innings Thursday night and the Tampa Bay Rays beat Minnesota 5-4. The loss dropped the Twins a half-game behind Texas for the second AL wild-card spot.
"You try to get wins when you're rolling and keep the momentum going. Hopefully we'll look at the bigger picture of how we put together a nice little run," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "But in the moment you're a little disappointed you couldn't find a way to finish it off."
For two particular reasons, it was a frustrating loss for the Twins. The Rays' go-ahead run scored on a passed ball in the sixth inning, and Miguel Sano's towering drive with a runner on earlier in the game dropped on the field for only a double after hitting a catwalk.
"That's definitely a homer," Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki catcher. "I've never seen a ball hit like that one. I've seen balls hit farther, but that one was mashed. How they can't call that a homer, I don't know. That was a 440-foot double."
After Suzuki drove in a run on his 200th career double during the second, the Twins tied it at 2 when Sano's double struck a catwalk around 150 feet above the playing surface. Sano stopped on second base and never scored.
"I'm sure the ground rules that are in place are best suited for the facility that they have, and you kind of have to live by them," Molitor said. "It's unfortunate when a ball's hit like that . . . It was probably 430-feet plus, but we'll never know where it was supposed to go."
Tommy Milone (6-4) allowed five runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings. In his previous outing Sunday, he helped out a depleted bullpen and got his first professional save as the Twins beat Baltimore 4-3 in 12 innings.
"I felt fine through the whole game, but they did a pretty good job of forcing the issue and a couple little things went their way," Milone said. "It happens."
Gomes (2-4) got an inning-ending double play with two on in the fifth during his 1 2-3 innings. After Colome worked two innings, Boxberger struck out all three batters he faced for his 31st save.
Joey Butler, recalled from Triple-A Durham to take the place of injured outfielder Desmond Jennings, had an RBI single off Milone and later scored on Suzuki's passed ball to give Tampa Bay a 5-4 lead in the sixth.
Eduardo Escobar homered for the Twins.
Escobar had a solo homer off Drew Smyly during a two-run fourth that put the Twins ahead 4-2. On Wednesday, Escobar hit a pair of solo shots for his first multihomer game.
"We're glad he's getting out of town," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Smyly gave up four runs and eight hits over 4 1-3 innings in his third start since returning from a left shoulder injury that sidelined him three months. The left-hander threw 100 pitches.
According to STATS, Escobar became the first Twins SS with at least three homers in a three-game series since Roy Smalley in August 1978 at Seattle. ... He has a career-high eight homers this season, including four in his last 21 at-bats.
Twins: Closer Glen Perkins (lower back spasms) played catch.
Rays: Jennings went on the 15-day DL due to a bruised left knee. "Our thought was let's see if 15 days of rest can help," manager Kevin Cash said. Jennings missed 96 games earlier this season with bursitis in the same knee.
Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (8-9) starts the opener of a six-game homestand Friday against LHP Scott Kazmir (7-8) and the AL West-leading Houston Astros. Minnesota is 38-24 at home this season.
Rays: RHP Erasmo Ramirez (10-4) will face RHP Edinson Volquez (11-7) and AL Central-leading Kansas City on Friday night. Tampa Bay is 5-18, including 0-4 this season, over the past four years against the Royals.