See more of the story

Carlos Santana was a teammate of Phil Maton's for a couple of seasons in Cleveland, and he considers him a friend.

"He's competition [now], but I root for him," Santana said.

Just not when Maton is facing … Carlos Santana. The veteran first baseman, called upon to pinch hit with two outs and two runners on base in the ninth inning, lined a curveball into shallow right-center field, scoring Manuel Margot from second base and completing a long, soggy night at Target Field in a jubilant way — with a 7-6 victory, the Twins' sixth in a row.

"I know what kind of approach he would have, so I tried to swing slow because he uses power pitches to make outs, especially in that situation," said Santana, who is now 3-for-6 with a walk against Maton. "Like the curveball — I tried to hit it in the middle."

It was a particularly satisfying victory for the Twins, who had to wait out an 83-minute rain delay midway through the game and overcome a 4-0 deficit that Pablo López found himself in, a problem wrought by a critical home run by Randy Arozarena.

López is certainly used to the problem. The Twins' nominal ace moved into the major league lead in home runs allowed, having surrendered 16 in 80 innings this season. Five of them have come in the first inning, just one away from the lead.

"It's been kind of like, one step forward, two or three steps back. It's been very frustrating," said López who, one year after earning an All-Star berth, finds himself saddled with a 5.63 ERA. "It's hard not to feel your confidence, like, mellowing down a little bit, diminishing day by day. But just like in life, you're never guaranteed anything."

Maybe. But on this homestead, the Twins seem guaranteed plenty of runs. They've scored 59 in the first eight games, going 7-1, and at least a half-dozen in the last six in a row. So when López watched Arozarena's first-inning blast disappear into the upper deck in left-center, the Twins seemed more worried about the impending storm than the score.

Sure enough, a bases-loaded, two-out double down the right-field line by Willi Castro scored three runs, and a matching double down the left-field line by Trevor Larnach brought Castro home, tying the score in the fourth inning.

BOXSCORE: Twins 7, Tampa Bay 6

Sign up for our Twins Update newsletter

Brandon Lowe smashed a home run to center off López just before the rain arrived, and Josh Lowe matched it against Jay Jackson when the game resumed.

But again, the Twins struck back quickly — two-pitches quickly, in fact. Max Kepler, who earlier in the homestand became Target Field's all-time home run leader, added No. 82 to his total, smacking an inside fastball from righthander Shawn Armstrong onto the grass berm in center field.

Carlos Correa followed by drawing a walk, moved up on Jose Miranda's hit and a potential double play foiled by Byron Buxton's speed, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Jeffers.

As the Twins' bullpen held the Rays in check, retiring 14 straight hitters, things fell into place for Santana to be a hero. Or at least get into the game, the 1,997th of his career. Margot led off the ninth with a single, and it wasn't hard to anticipate another memorable moment for Royce Lewis. But he struck out.

MLB standings

Up came Kepler, but he flew out. And AL player of the week Carlos Correa? He delivered, but not a walk-off. Well, it was a walk-off for Rays closer Pete Fairbanks, who allowed his pitching thumb to get in the way of Correa's one-hop smash to the mound.

Had he fielded the ball cleanly, the inning was over. Instead, it was an infield single and he couldn't continue, bringing Maton, Tampa Bay's eighth pitcher, into the game.

And bringing the switch-hitting Santana, with his track record against his friend, into the game to hit for Miranda.

"I never take it easy. I try to be in control of the situation," Santana said after the 12th walk-off plate appearance of his career, and second as a pinch-hitter. "That's why baseball is my No. 1 priority. My mentality is that when I have an opportunity like that, I try to help my team win."