Mejia, Twins open up home stand with 14-3 loss
MINNEAPOLIS — Having Mitch Haniger batting high in the lineup again ought to be a lift for the Seattle Mariners in this up-and-down season.
The names hardly mattered with the way they were hitting at Minnesota on Monday.
Nelson Cruz drove in four runs, Haniger had four hits, and the Mariners started a series against the Twins with a football score for the second time in a week, a 14-3 victory fueled by 19 hits.
“I don’t even know what the final score was, but we ran it up pretty good,” said Ben Gamel, who went 2 for 4 with two walks.
Danny Valencia and Mike Zunino hit back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning, the fifth such feat for the Mariners this season. Yovani Gallardo (3-6) sailed through six innings with the excess support, allowing three runs and seven hits.
“Definitely took a little bit of pressure off,” said Gallardo, whose ERA has been over 6.00 for the past three weeks. “But you’ve still got to go out there and pitch.”
Zunino and Carlos Ruiz was the previous pair to hit consecutive homers for the Mariners, also against the Twins last week during a 6-5 comeback victory.
Brian Dozier had three hits and Joe Mauer drove in two runs, but the Twins lost their fifth straight home game. Dozier was stranded after his leadoff double in the third inning, and Gallardo found a groove from there.
With his fourth team in four seasons, Gallardo has struggled to get going with the Mariners. This was an encouraging performance for the 31-year-old right-hander, though.
“I’ve been feeling great. I’ve always said I’ve just got to stay positive. Keep working on the things I’ve got to work on,” Gallardo said.
Twins rookie Adalberto Mejia (1-2) struggled from the start, allowing nine hits and nine runs and leaving with two outs in the fourth inning. The first two batters in the lineup, Gamel and Haniger, reached base and eventually scored all three times they faced Mejia.
Gamel walked to start the game, and Haniger got on when Mejia threw away his grounder in front of the mound.
“They’re a good hitting team,” said Mejia, who gave up two hits and three runs in five innings to the Mariners last week. “They take good swings at good pitches, and at the end of the day when things are not for you, they’re not for you, I guess.”
Cruz just missed a homer for the seventh straight game at Target Field, settling for an RBI double against Twins backup catcher Chris Gimenez in the ninth inning following a replay review that reversed the original call. Gimenez made his fifth appearance of the year to relieve a beleaguered bullpen.
That’s because the Twins, despite their perch in first place in the AL Central, have allowed 10-plus runs an astounding 10 times already this season. They lost 13-8 at San Francisco on Sunday and 12-3 in Seattle to the Mariners just six days ago.
“We’re 60 games in,” manager Paul Molitor said. “That’s not a good situation.”
Haniger returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing six weeks with a strained right oblique muscle.
“I’m feeling better and better every day,” said Haniger, who was batting .342 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 21 games before the injury.
Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez will get another rehab start this weekend with Triple-A Tacoma, after a successful turn on Sunday when he retired the first 14 batters and experienced no trouble with his right shoulder.
“I’m really excited he threw the ball much better and kind of got his rhythm going out there on the mound,” manager Scott Servais said.
Mariners: SS Jean Segura will try to run on his injured right ankle before the game Tuesday, an important test before he can return from the DL. … Reliever Casey Lawrence was recalled from Tacoma before the game, and fellow RH Emilio Pagan was sent down.
Twins: SS Jorge Polanco returned from the bereavement list after missing seven games because of the death of his grandfather. He entered as a pinch-hitter. … RHP Alex Wimmers, who relieved Mejia, was sent to Triple-A Rochester afterward.
Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman (3-3, 4.03 ERA) takes the mound Tuesday after taking the loss to the Twins in his previous turn last week.
Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (3-4, 6.52 ERA) starts the second game of the series, having beaten Bergman and the Mariners on Thursday in his best outing this season.