Mariners 5, Twins 4

These young Seattle Mariners have taken more than their share of

lumps over the last three seasons, getting beaten down by more

experienced, better-equipped teams in the powerful American

League.

As they prepare to enter the final month of manager Eric Wedge’s

third year on the job, the Mariners are finally starting to give

their fans some reason for optimism.

Blake Beavan gave up two runs in seven innings and Trayvon

Robinson drove in two runs to lift Seattle to a 5-4 victory over

the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.

Beavan (9-8) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out one,

shrugging off a shaky first inning.

Kyle Seager also drove in two runs for the Mariners, who have

won 11 of their last 15 games and posted back-to-back winning

months for the first time since 2009.

”They’ve gained a great deal of experience this year,” Wedge

said. ”We’ve had a lot of tough games, a lot of tight games, very

similar to today. Their heartbeat’s a lot better. They’re much more

experienced and they’re doing a lot better job in step-up

opportunities.”

Brian Duensing (3-10) gave up three earned runs and four hits in

5 1-3 innings. He left after loading the bases in the sixth, and

left fielder Josh Willingham’s blunder contributed to Seattle’s

four-run inning.

Willingham’s two-run homer in the eighth off Stephen Pryor made

things interesting, but Tom Wilhelmsen picked up his 21st save to

help the Mariners take three of four in the series.

The Twins had the tying run on third base after pinch runner

Darin Mastroianni stole two bases, but a shaky Wilhelmsen got Ben

Revere to ground out to preserve a well-deserved win for

Beavan.

Beavan wasn’t overpowering, but he mixed his pitches and changed

speeds just enough to keep the Twins off balance one night after

they erupted for 10 runs. After giving up two runs in the first

inning, Beavan retired 14 of his last 15 hitters.

”We just took the momentum and ran with it,” Beavan said.

The Mariners loaded the bases to start the sixth and Duensing

left after giving up a sacrifice fly to Seager that tied it.

Willingham then dropped an easy fly ball by Jesus Montero to score

another run and make it 3-2. Robinson added a two-run single.

”We’ve got each other’s back from the first inning to the last

inning,” Robinson said. ”It’s kind of like a snowball. Once

somebody does it, everybody does it.”

The Mariners were 16 games under .500 on July 15, a lackluster

start that ultimately led the organization to decide to part ways

with longtime icon Ichiro Suzuki in a trade with the Yankees. But

they have quietly been playing some of the best baseball in the AL

over the last month.

They had a seven-game win streak to close July and an

eight-gamer earlier this month to start climbing back up to

respectability. And after a three-game sweep by the White Sox in

Chicago, the Mariners bounced back with three wins in Minnesota

before heading home for a September filled with games against AL

West opponents, and plenty of chances to show everyone that they’re

not the same team that has been kicked around for the last three

years.

”Everybody’s just kind of feeding off each other,” Beavan

said. ”Everybody wants to get better and is willing to put in the

extra effort and the work. … You’re starting to see that. Guys

are buying into that way of playing.

NOTES: Mariners OF Michael Saunders missed his sixth straight

game with a groin strain, but manager Eric Wedge said he expected

him back on Friday. … Twins C Joe Mauer has thrown out only six

of 49 runners trying to steal this season, by far the worst

percentage of his career. Manager Ron Gardenhire blamed slow

slide-step deliveries by the team’s pitchers. But he also said the

Twins are working with Mauer on staying on the balls of his feet.

He has been catching the ball flat-footed, making it harder to

deliver a powerful on-target throw. … The Mariners will open a

home series with the Los Angeles Angels on Friday. RHP Kevin

Millwood (4-11, 4.28) will start the opener against Dan Haren

(8-10, 4.82). The Twins are headed to Kansas City, where RHP Cole

De Vries (3-5, 4.68) will face Royals LHP Will Smith (4-6,

5.55).