Morneau's blast helps Twins edge M's
Justin Morneau mashed his first home run and hustled for a double that led to the go-ahead run. Denard Span went deep. Jason Kubel came through in the clutch. The bullpen was spotless.
The endurance of Kevin Slowey, though, was what impressed the Minnesota Twins the most.
Morneau homered and drove in three runs, Kubel hit a tibreaking double in the fifth inning and the Twins beat Seattle 6-5 on Wednesday night in an ominous first start for Mariners sinkerballer Carlos Silva.
"These are the games you turn to your bats," said Slowey, who survived a couple of rough stretches when his location was way off and completed six innings for the victory.
After 17 rather lackluster innings by their lineup, the Twins came back in the ninth Tuesday with three two-out runs. They maintained their momentum at the plate with six extra-base hits in this one.
Morneau and Span hit two-run homers, and Craig Breslow and Jesse Crain held the lead for Joe Nathan, who notched his first save - and his 200th with Minnesota.
He wouldn't have had the chance were it not for the way Slowey recovered from a three-run fourth to retire the last seven batters he faced. The Mariners had one hit over the final five innings.
"That was something special," Nathan said. "For him to get through six innings is unbelievable. He was obviously battling out there with not his best control, but that shows you what kind of pitcher he is even when he doesn't have his best stuff."
Russell Branyan and Jose Lopez hit long home runs and Yuniesky Betancourt went 3-for-4 for Seattle. Slowey struck out five without a walk, after allowing five runs on nine hits. His struggles were a matter of trying to muscle his way to the plate in an attempt to overcorrect his off-target pitches, but Slowey eventually settled himself down.
"He knew exactly what was going on. He was trying to fix it the whole time," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The Mariners started the season strong with a homer by Ken Griffey Jr. and a 6-1 victory on opening night that prompted a mini-celebration in the clubhouse, but problems from 2008 have already resurfaced in the past two games. Minnesota's three-run rally Tuesday against new closer Brandon Morrow served as a reminder of the team record of 31 blown saves set last year.
Then Silva, that $48 million, four-year contract still weighing heavily on his broad shoulders despite the 35 pounds he shed while doing yoga and changing his diet during the winter, fell behind 2-0 after the first inning and 4-2 after two.
Morneau hit a changeup a half-dozen rows into the upper deck, and Span sent one soaring over the folded-up football seats above right field. Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu tried to point out the positives with Silva, but he wasn't happy with the pitch selection or location on the two home runs.
"If he throws those down, it's a different story," Wakamatsu said. "He came out and competed. We have to be somewhat pleased."
After Slowey gave the lead back to Seattle, Morneau made a headfirst dive for a two-out double that tied it at 5 in the fifth. Kubel followed with a double that scooted down the right-field line to drive in Morneau and put Minnesota back in front.
Wakamatsu has implored the emotional, excitable Silva to use his head more than his heart, but even against his former team this was more about hittable pitches in the wrong places. The right-hander, who spent four seasons and made 124 starts with the Twins, gave up six runs and eight hits in five innings.
"I felt great," he said. "Besides the two changeups, I don't take anything back. The sinker was working really well. The two homers with two changes are the only two I'd take away. I got a lot of ground balls."
Minnesota C Mike Redmond sat out for the second straight game because of a pulled groin muscle, but insisted he was ready. Gardenhire preferred caution: "To his satisfaction, he's fine. To mine, he still hasn't cleared yet." ... Twins bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek was out of the hospital and with the team at the stadium, but he's not ready to return to his duties. He might need a sub over the next week or so. He felt groggy and missed the opener. ... Silva's wife is from the Twin Cities, and they kept an offseason home here. He had the Mariners over for a party the night before the opener. ... Reliever Chris Jakubauskas, whose name barely fits on the back of his jersey, made his major league debut for Seattle with two scoreless innings. The 30-year-old picked Michael Cuddyer off second base to end the seventh and pumped his fist as he turned toward the dugout. ... Span has reached base in seven of 13 plate appearances.