All three of Minnesota’s losses this season have come in the 10th, with the bullpen struggling with baseball’s new-as-of-2020 rule that starts each extra inning with a runner on second base.
For Seattle, that was Taylor Trammell, who homered earlier in the game.
Taylor Rogers (0-1) picked up Braden Bishop’s bunt in front of the mound, but he couldn’t get a clean grip and held off on a throw as a precaution. Haniger hit a one-out fly deep enough to left for Trammell to come home.
Kendall Graveman (1-0) worked the ninth for the victory, and Keynan Middleton pitched a perfect 10th for the save.
Mariners closer Rafael Montero took the eighth against the middle of Minnesota’s lineup and walked Nelson Cruz – who hit a two-run homer earlier – with one out. Pinch runner Jake Cave eventually scored the tying run on a wild pitch, with nary a hit in the inning for the Twins.
Kyle Seager’s two-out, two-strike single in the eighth inning had given the Mariners the lead they first built in the third inning when Trammell hit his first career home run and Haniger went deep two outs later. Michael Pineda shook off the power surge and finished six innings with only two other baserunners. The Mariners were outhomered 13-3 over their first seven games.
Cruz erased Seattle’s lead on one pitch from Yusei Kikuchi, reaching out to drive a slider into the planters above right field. Kikuchi settled in, too, finishing six innings for the second straight turn.
The Mariners needed a lift like this from Kikuchi, their lefty with the jerky leg kick whose increased velocity this spring has helped him progress from two underwhelming seasons to start his major league career. With an ominous injury to James Paxton, a strained left forearm that can be a precursor to elbow reconstruction, and struggles by opening day starter Marco Gonzales, the Mariners‘ rotation entered the game ranked 26th in baseball in ERA.
Twins starters, on the other hand, have the best ERA in the majors at 1.88 and have yet to lose a decision. They’re 5-0 in eight games.
Mariners: Paxton will get his second medical opinion on Monday, with the possibility of Tommy John surgery still looming. … 1B Evan White (mild left quadriceps strain) missed his second straight game but worked out on the field beforehand. … CF Kyle Lewis, the AL Rookie of the Year in 2020 who has yet to play this season because of a bone bruise on his right knee, has increased his activity and intensity, with favorable reviews of his progress, manager Scott Servais said.
Twins: 3B Josh Donaldson (mild right hamstring strain) moved closer to a return next week, taking groundballs and batting practice in the morning. He’ll get some at-bats in simulated game situations at the alternate training site before being cleared. He’s eligible to come off the injured list on Monday. … Players and staff received single-shot COVID-19 vaccinations on Thursday, with the club coming much closer to the desired 85% threshold than initially anticipated, manager Rocco Baldelli said. Some have not yet decided whether to get the vaccine.
Mariners: RHP Chris Flexen (1-0, 0.00 ERA) pitches on Sunday. He struck out six batters in five scoreless innings in his first turn against San Francisco.
Twins: RHP Matt Shoemaker (1-0, 1.50 ERA) takes the mound in the series finale. He gave up just three hits in six innings in his debut with the team on Monday at Detroit.
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