SEATTLE — After seeing long fly balls to center field die on the warning track as the night progressed, Mike Zunino knew if he got a chance at one swing to end it, he was going to do all he could to not hit it to center.
Zunino turned on a 2-2 breaking ball and lined a home run with two outs in the 12th inning to give the Seattle Mariners a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night.
Zunino didn’t miss the mistake from Minnesota reliever Matt Magill (1-1) and lined it out to left field to give the Mariners their 15th one-run victory this season, the most in baseball. Seattle is also 5-0 in extra-inning games.
It was Zunino’s eighth home run of the season and his second career game-ending homer.
“Any chance you can step up to the plate in extras or the bottom of the ninth and have that opportunity, but to be able to do that was nice,” Zunino said. “I obviously knew the (bullpen) arms were running out, so it was nice to get a pitch to handle and put a good swing on it.”
Seattle won for the seventh time in eight games and played their sixth straight one-run game, going 5-1 in those. They continue to find ways to win and are now 11 games above .500.
“It’s really remarkable the run we’ve been on and how we’ve done it,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.
Chasen Bradford (4-0) worked the 12th inning to get the win. Seattle’s bullpen was outstanding, including Juan Nicasio striking out five of the six batters he faced.
The eighth inning was the exception. Nick Vincent was nearly through the inning when he left with a right groin strain. The injury was a major turning point. James Pazos took over and walked Miguel Sano before giving up singles to Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar to score pinch-runner Ehire Adrianza and tie the game at 3.
“We just couldn’t find a way to score on the multiple opportunities we had with the innings that were remaining,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
Seattle got all its runs via the homer. Jean Segura and Nelson Cruz connected in the sixth inning off Minnesota starter Jake Odorizzi. Cruz’s homer was his first since May 3 and gave Seattle a 3-2 lead, barely eluding the leaping attempt of Byron Buxton as he crashed hard into the padded wall.
Seattle starter Wade LeBlanc allowed two runs in six innings and has allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of his five starts in May. Max Kepler and Rosario both had RBI doubles in the sixth inning off LeBlanc.
Odorizzi has allowed three or less earned runs in each of his last six starts, but hasn’t been able to work beyond the sixth inning in any.
Seattle missed a chance to win it in the 11th after Gordon Beckham reached on an infield single and advanced to third with two outs. Cruz was hit by a pitch from Magill to put runners at the corners, but Kyle Seager popped out to end the threat.
Buxton left the game after slamming into the wall trying to rob Cruz’s home run. Buxton was running and full speed and leaped hard into the wall but the ball barely eluded his glove and cleared the fence. Segura left before the start of the ninth after getting inadvertently kicked in the helmet by Twins shortstop Gregorio Petit sliding into second trying to break up a double play.
Molitor said Buxton has a laceration above his eye and will likely be sore but should be OK, while Servais said they should know more about both Segura and Vincent on Sunday.
The Mariners expect newly acquired reliever Alex Colome to be available for Sunday’s series finale. Servais said OF Denard Span likely won’t be available until Monday due to travel from Florida.
Twins: Molitor continues to be pleased with the progress of Joe Mauer’s recovery. Mauer did some light hitting on Saturday back in Minneapolis. “I think the intensity on his weight room work picked up and if he has another day tomorrow that is similar in progression we’ll probably see him on the field back in Minneapolis on Wednesday doing some work on the field,” Molitor said, “with the idea of hopefully trying to prepare him for the potential of when we get back in town.”
Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma will continue his recovery from major shoulder surgery by throwing live batting practice early next week. Iwakuma had surgery late last season and has faced a few setbacks in his recovery after signing a minor league deal with the club.
Twins: Jose Berrios (5-4) threw eight innings and struck out nine in his last start against Detroit, picking up his fifth win of the season. Berrios has decisions in nine of his 10 starts so far this year, but lost to Seattle back in April.
Mariners: Mike Leake (4-3) has been better of late, including throwing 6 2/3 innings and allowing just one earned run in his last start against Oakland. Leake still has a 5.46 ERA for the season.