Twins rally to beat Mariners 6-5 in series opener
MINNEAPOLIS — This barrage of home runs has helped propel the Minnesota Twins to the best record in baseball.
There's plenty of speed to supplement the power, too, as Jorge Polanco proved again.
Polanco scored the tying run on a wild pitch and Marwin Gonzalez hit the go-ahead RBI single during a three-run rally in the eighth inning , giving the surging Twins a 6-5 victory over the slumping Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
"We never quit. We can score many runs in one inning," Gonzalez said, "and every time that's why we don't give up."
Polanco, who took over the league lead in batting average at .341, reached base all four times he batted. He tried for a hustle double on each of his three hits, beating the tag at second base twice. That included the eighth against reliever Brandon Brennan (2-5), when Polanco followed Max Kepler's leadoff double with his own on a head-first slide to cut the lead to 5-4.
"All of their teammates on the bench appreciate it when they see something like that, but it's those guys wanting it," said manager Rocco Baldelli, whose team leads the AL with 144 doubles. "You have to run hard out of the box, and we have several guys that do that. They think double every time they hit a ball in the gap."
After advancing on a long fly out by Eddie Rosario, Polanco raced home on a stray slider by Austin Adams that skipped in the dirt past catcher Tom Murphy. Gonzalez then put the Twins in front with his sharp single, clapping his hands as he pointed to an exuberant home dugout during the sprint to first.
The Mariners started the ninth with two singles against Trevor May, but the hard-throwing right-hander notched his first save of the season by striking out Edwin Encarnación looking and then retiring the next two batters. Matt Magill (2-0) pitched a perfect eighth for the Twins, who have won 19 of their last 25 games.
As May warmed up in the bullpen, he said, a feeling the rally would come was palpable.
"That's the team you want to be on, the team where everybody can't wait to be the guy to do it that night," May said, adding: "It's ridiculous. It truly is the most fun team I've ever been on."
The called third strike on Encarnación by home plate umpire Mike Estabrook was down and away, which the AL home run leader believed was low and outside.
"You want to get your work done, but we're human," Encarnación said. "I know it was a ball, but there's nothing you can do."
Encarnación gave the Mariners a third-inning lead with a three-run home run off starter Martín Pérez, after reaching the 400-homer mark for his career in the previous game. A two-out infield single by Mallex Smith started the rally, putting starter Mike Leake in position for a third straight victory after logging 16 innings with just three runs allowed over his previous two turns.
With the team playing at home for the first time in two weeks, the Twins rolled out new red "Bomba Squad" T-shirts to tout their newfound power with a fan giveaway and played a siren sound effect over the ballpark speakers after each homer.
The Twins, who entered the evening with the second-most homers in the major leagues, muscled their way back in the fourth inning. Jonathan Schoop hit a two-run home run, and Jason Castro followed with the tying solo shot. That gave the Twins their seventh set of back-to-back homers this year , matching the Mariners for the most in baseball.
"Their lineup top to bottom is tough to get through," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I thought Mike Leake did a great job."
Daniel Vogelbach's RBI single against Pérez, who has logged only 17 1/3 innings over his last four starts, put the Mariners back in front. Then Kyle Seager made it 5-3 with an RBI single in the seventh against Ryne Harper.
Encarnación hit his 21st home run of the season and the 16th of his career at Target Field, the second-most by a visiting player in the 10-year history of the facility. Salvador Perez has hit 17 homers here for the Kansas City Royals.
Mariners: 2B Dee Gordon (bruised right wrist) returned to the lineup after a 19-game absence, bringing the number of players on the injured list down to 10. Servais said SS J.P. Crawford (sprained left ankle) will likely be the next reinstatement when the team starts a series in Oakland on Friday, provided he finishes a rehab assignment with Class A Modesto this week unscathed. Crawford has missed the last 13 games.
Twins: LHP Taylor Rogers, who has taken some of the turns in the ninth behind primary closer Blake Parker, was unavailable because of minor back tightness.
Mariners: LHP Tommy Milone (1-1, 3.10 ERA) will be the primary pitcher on Wednesday night, with a to-be-determined reliever serving as the opener. Servais announced that LHP Yusei Kikuchi will start on Thursday afternoon.
Twins: RHP José Berriós (8-2, 3.14 ERA) will take the mound for the middle game of the series. He has completed at least six innings in 11 of 13 turns this season.