MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Willi Castro hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning and the Minnesota Twins rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Tuesday night.

Edouard Julien also homered for the Twins, who lost the first two in the four-game series and began the night with a 7 1/2-game lead in over Cleveland in the AL Central.

René Pinto homered and Josh Lowe had an RBI single for the Rays, who missed an opportunity to gain ground in the AL East with Baltimore losing to St. Louis. Instead, Tampa Bay remains three games behind the Orioles.

Minnesota was held to two hits through six innings before Max Kepler singled off Rays’ starter Zack Littell (3-6) with one out in the seventh. After Carlos Correa struck out, Castro hit a first-pitch slider to the seats in right-centerfield.

Louie Varland (4-3) pitched 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, followed by a shutout inning from Caleb Thielbar before Jhoan Duran had a 1-2-3 ninth for his 26th save in 31 chances.

Littell, a full-time starter since July 30, allowed three earned runs and five hits over seven innings. He allowed one earned run in eight innings last Thursday against Seattle.

A Twin from 2018-20, Littell retired 11 straight hitters after Julien’s third-inning home run.

Pinto’s fifth-inning home run to the seats in left gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.

Joe Ryan, who shook off a bouncing comebacker off his pitching hand in the second inning, allowed two earned runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings, the second time in four starts since returning from a groin strain he did not make it out of the fifth inning.

Ryan walked Yandy Díaz to start the game but retired nine straight Tampa Bay hitters before Brandon Lowe doubled to start the fourth. He scored two batters later when a liner from Lowe went off the glove of Correa.


Tampa Bay OF/1B Luke Raley struck out twice and has at least one strikeout in 19 straight games, the longest active streak in the majors. Tampa Bay struck out 11 times.


Rays: Tampa Bay 1B Yandy Díaz left in the fifth inning with a testicular contusion from an at-bat foul ball. … CF Jose Siri was placed on the 10-day injured list on Tuesday because of a fractured right hand sustained in Monday’s game. IF Curtis Mead was recalled from Triple-A Durham.

Twins: Placed on the bereavement list Sunday, IF Jorge Polanco is expected back Wednesday. … RHP Brock Stewart, out since June 26 with right elbow soreness, felt good after throwing 25 pitches of live batting practice and is expected to begin a Triple-A rehab assignment Friday.


Tampa Bay RHP Taj Bradley (5-7, 5.44 ERA) is scheduled to face Minnesota LHP Dallas Keuchel (1-1, 4.78) in Wednesday afternoon’s series finale.