Twins nip Mariners in dramatic, walk-off fashion
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins haven't been hitting a whole lot lately.
They simply sprinted away with this game against the Seattle Mariners.
Kurt Suzuki hit the winning RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning, after two wild pitches by Seattle closer Carson Smith let the Twins tie the score on their way to a 3-2 victory over the Mariners on Saturday.
"It's still only August 1, but you take them any way you can now," said Suzuki, who's been at the top of the list of slumping Twins.
Eddie Rosario did most of the running. Intentionally walked with two outs so Smith could face Suzuki with men at first and third, Rosario moved up on an errant slider while pinch-runner Shane Robinson raced home with the tying run.
Rosario's risk was rewarded when he stole third base, putting him in position to score on Suzuki's sharp single to left field that finished another frustrating night for the Twins at the plate on a celebratory note.
"Given the situation and the heightened intensity of that inning, they weren't particularly paying a lot of attention to him," said Twins manager Paul Molitor, whose base-running expertise has had a strong influence on his team.
Miguel Sano led off the ninth with a double and moved up on a fastball by Smith (1-5) that nearly hit Torii Hunter in the head and sailed past catcher Mike Zunino.
"I just didn't throw strikes and get the job done," Smith said.
With Rosario on third, Smith had little choice but to throw Suzuki the 3-1 fastball he was expecting.
"You sense frustration when opportunities have kind of gone by the wayside as the game unfolds, but you never know when you're going to get another chance," Molitor said. "I think veterans kind of respond to that opportunity."
Trevor May (7-7) pitched a perfect ninth inning for the victory. The Twins scored their only run against Mariners starter Mike Montgomery on, of course, a wild pitch after Trevor Plouffe led off the fourth with a triple.
The Twins, who are 5-9 since the All-Star break, have scored three runs or less in eight of those 14 games. Still, they hold a one-game lead for the second AL wild card spot.
"We needed that comeback," said Twins starter Kyle Gibson, who finished seven innings by stranding runners at second and third with none out.
That maneuver, made possible by Molitor's trust in the right-hander even with the bullpen active, gave Suzuki another chance. Batting just .234 this season after being picked for the All-Star team last year, Suzuki was excited to see Rosario walked in front of him.
"I think anybody that plays this game wants to be in that position," Suzuki said.
Nelson Cruz led off the sixth with his 28th home run, a full-count slider from Gibson off the back wall of the bullpen behind left-center field and gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead. The drive was estimated by the Twins at 436 feet.
Cruz stretched his hitting streak to 12 straight games, his longest run since May 20-31, 2014. He's batting .407 during that stretch with seven home runs and 11 RBI.
The start of the game was delayed by 25 minutes to accommodate the on-field ceremony in honor of Minnesota's 1965 American League championship. More than 20 players from that team, along with dozens of family members, were present for the 50th anniversary celebration including the primary starting rotation: Jim Kaat, Jim Grant, Camilo Pascual and Jim Perry.
Twins rookie Byron Buxton will travel Sunday to Florida for further rehab work on his sprained left thumb before getting in some minor league games. "There's a slight anticipation that things are moving a little more quickly than they might've originally been scheduled," Molitor said.
Mariners: Hisashi Iwakuma (2-2, 5.10 ERA) will make his ninth start of the season in the series finale Sunday. He's coming off his worst performance of his injury-limited year, with 10 hits and six runs allowed Tuesday against Arizona.
Twins: Mike Pelfrey (5-7, 3.92 ERA) will take the mound, seeking his first win since throwing eight scoreless innings June 7 against Milwaukee. He's 0-5 in his last eight turns.