Twins vs. Mariners preview
In the midst of a playoff race, the Minnesota Twins don't need to be reminded just how important every win can be.
Scoring, let alone winning, is something they've hardly been able to accomplish against the Seattle Mariners' Hisashi Iwakuma.
Following a dramatic victory, the Twins try to end Iwakuma's dominance against them and win their first series in three weeks Sunday.
Though Minnesota (54-49) won for the fourth time in the last 13 games, Saturday's 3-2 victory maintained its one-game lead in the race for the last AL wild-card spot. It also might be the spark the Twins need to win their first series since taking three of four against Detroit from July 9-12 and string together some victories.
"Wins, we're finding out, are a little tougher, but we found a way to stay in the game," manager Paul Molitor told MLB's official website.
After two wild pitches from Carson Smith helped the Twins tie things in the ninth, Kurt Suzuki delivered a run-scoring single with two outs for the winner.
"It's still only August 1, but you take them any way you can now," said Suzuki, batting .310 with five RBI in his last nine games.
"Anyone who plays this game wants to be in this position. I don't care where you are in the standings. You want to be in that spot. This is why you play. It's kinda like a playoff atmosphere."
Though the Twins have something to build on, they've totaled four runs and seven hits in the last two games and have been held to three or fewer runs in eight of the last 13.
Things likely won't be any easier while opposing Iwakuma (2-2, 5.10 ERA), who has allowed two unearned runs over 33 2/3 innings to win all five starts against them. He has given up none in the last 23 2/3 of his last three-plus meetings.
However, if Iwakuma is to continue that dominance in his first look at Minnesota this season, he must bounce back from allowing season highs of six runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings of an 8-4 loss to Arizona on Tuesday.
"His command was just not where it needed to be," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "I thought his velocity was good, he just left a lot of pitches in the middle of the plate."
The right-hander was 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his three previous starts.
"I have to bounce back and pitch a good game on Sunday," Iwakuma said.
Though the Mariners (47-58) have lost five of the last six, Nelson Cruz is batting .407 with seven homers, four doubles and 11 RBI during a 12-game hitting streak. He's batting .408 with four home runs, six doubles and nine RBI in his last 12 games at Target Field.
Looking to contain Cruz, Mike Pelfrey (5-7, 3.92) has a 3.18 ERA despite going 0-1 in two starts since the All-Star break after going 0-4 with a 7.59 ERA in his previous six. He yielded two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings while not factoring in the decision of an 8-7 loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
The right-hander's only other appearance against the Mariners came in 2013.