Mariners fight for playoff spot; Twins try to avoid 100th loss
MINNEAPOLIS — While the Seattle Mariners are trying to avoid an early end to their season, the Minnesota Twins need a late-season win streak to avoid an ugly bit of franchise history.
The Mariners remain in the thick of the American League wild-card race heading into Sunday's series finale at Target Field but cannot have slip-ups like Saturday night's power outage if they are to make the postseason for the first time since 2001.
“They're all important,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said after Saturday's 3-2 loss cost Seattle a chance to advance on the Detroit Tigers, who also lost. “Tonight was important, tomorrow's important, the next one's important. It's just where we are in the season.”
For the Twins, who head into their final home game of the season with 99 losses, the task is to avoid becoming just the second team in franchise history to reach triple-digit losses. The 1982 Twins lost 102 games — a mark that this team could eclipse with seven games to play.
The 1982 Twins were the first to play indoor baseball in Minnesota, with the Metrodome opening that season. They were hard to watch but included young players like Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola, Tim Laudner, Tom Brunansky and Gary Gaetti, who formed the nucleus of the team that would win a World Series five years later.
If the Twins are to avoid that dubious distinction, they'll need to keep hitting home runs. They now have 192 this season, which is the most the franchise has recorded since that 1987 World Series championship team hit 196.
“This is a moment when I see my team play hard and I play hard too,” said Twins slugger Miguel Sano, who blasted his 24th homer of the season on Saturday.
On Sunday, the Twins will send left-hander Hector Santiago (12-9, 4.82 ERA) out to face Seattle right-hander Taijuan Walker (6-11, 4.32).
Working on the mound at Target Field might bring back good memories for Walker, whose only previous start in Minnesota came July 31, 2015, when he threw a complete game, allowing just one hit and striking out 11.
Of course, none of that will matter if the Mariners can't score runs, which was their problem in Saturday's loss that dropped them to 1-4 against the Twins this season. Nelson Cruz's towering homer, measured at 493 feet, was their only offense.
After giving up the go-ahead homer to the Twins in the fourth inning, the Mariners pitchers retired the last 15 Minnesota batters in a row, but couldn't score again.
“Our bullpen did a nice job of keeping us right there, but offensively we just couldn't get much going,” Servais said. “Obviously, Nellie hit the big homer, but other than that there weren't a whole lot of chances.”
The Seattle loss, coupled with a Baltimore win, has the Mariners 2 1/2 games back of the final wild-card spot, but the task is tougher, as they would need to leap-frog Houston, Detroit and Baltimore to get to play games after their Oct. 2 regular-season finale with Oakland at Safeco Field.