SEATTLE -- Miguel Sano homered for the third straight game and drove in three runs as the Twins topped the Mariners, 6-5, Saturday night in a game that ended on a wild double play in the ninth.
The Twins tagged Mariners starter Wade Miley with three home runs -- two-run blasts by Sano and Joe Mauer and a solo shot by Eduardo Nunez -- as Seattle's southpaw lasted just four-plus innings while giving up six hits and five runs with four walks.
Twins right-hander Phil Hughes didn't fare much better, getting pulled after 4 2/3 innings while allowing nine hits and four runs. Hughes departed with a 5-4 lead, but Seattle tied things up on a solo homer by Luis Sardinas in the sixth before Sano delivered a go-ahead RBI single in the seventh in the see-saw affair.
Nunez went 4-for-5 for the Twins and scored twice as Minnesota improved to 14-34 and has won three in a row for just the second time this season. The Mariners racked up 14 hits and four walks, but stranded 10 runners as they saw their American League West lead shrink to a half-game over Texas at 28-20.
The game ended on a bizarre 2-4-5-6 double play by the Twins as Shawn O'Malley got thrown out trying to get back to third base in a run down after Kyle Seager was caught attempting to advance to second on a pitch in the dirt by closer Kevin Jepsen with one out and runners on first and third and Franklin Gutierrez at the plate. Seager was then thrown out trying to advance again to second on the same play to end the game. Replay was consulted but the calls at third and second base were confirmed.
"It was me probably trying to be a little too aggressive there," Seager said. "Looking to get that extra base, get in scoring position, get out of the double play. And then you get in the curveball count. So I was just trying to read it down in the dirt. I probably should have gone on the first one [in the dirt on the previous at-bat]. That would have definitely been a little better. It really couldn't have been worse, I guess." More >
Twins manager Paul Molitor said he had never seen a play like that over his lengthy career as a player, coach or manager.
"Not to end the game," Molitor said. "A lot of it blurs together over about four decades, I guess, but to record a double play where there's not a force in order like that in a situation where the tying run is 90 feet away, it's just a bizarre ending. We haven't caught a lot of breaks, and we caught one there at the end tonight for sure." More >
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
New (old) leading man:Norichika Aoki came up big in his second game back atop the Mariners batting order since Leonys Martin went on the disabled list. The 34-year-old opened the game with his first home run for Seattle and fifth leadoff shot of his MLB career, driving a 2-0 fastball just over the fence in right field after Sano had given the Twins a two-run lead in the top of the first. Aoki then put the Mariners up 4-2 with an RBI single in the fourth.
"He continues to swing the bat very well," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "The home run is always a surprise. You're not expecting that out of him. But the at-bats were good. A number of our guys had good at-bats, we just didn't maybe have the keys ones at the right time with men on base."
Sano continues HR surge: Sano staked the Twins to a 2-0 lead in the first inning with a two-out, two-run homer, his 10th of the season and third in three games. He has seven homers since May 11. Since July 2 of last season, Sano has hit 28 home runs. Seven of his 10 homers this season have come on the road.
"We've heaped a lot on him expectation-wise," Molitor said. "I think a lot of people just assume that whatever we saw last year was just going to flow and he was going to take off. It's not that easy. But, if you watch him take batting practice, and there's not a lot of people that can do the things he can to a baseball. It's just a matter of him staying under control."
Gunned down at the plate: The Mariners tied the game at 5 on Sardinas' leadoff homer in the sixth, but they couldn't take the lead when Seth Smith was thrown out trying to score later that inning on a fly ball to center by Nelson Cruz. Twins center fielder Danny Santana circled under the high pop and then threw a strike to home to nail Smith, who had been hit by a pitch and advanced to third on Robinson Cano's base hit.
"The way the outfielder went after the ball, he caught it very abnormally," Servais said. "He does have a good arm and we know that. We were looking at how he went after the ball, he wasn't really camped under it and behind it. But he's an athletic player and made an adjustment and made a good throw."
Hughes escapes: The Mariners loaded the bases with none out in the third, but after a coaching visit to the mound, Hughes wiggled out against the heart of the order getting three pop outs on four pitches. Cruz popped to second, Seager popped to third in foul territory and Adam Lind popped out foul to the catcher. Hughes also held the Mariners to one run in the second when he got Steve Clevenger to ground into a double play with the bases loaded and no outs.
"Anytime you can keep a team like that, especially in the middle of their order, off the board, it's a boost," Hughes said. "That could have easily have buried us in that game, I feel like. To keep it 2-2 is a small win, but a win nonetheless."
"He can hit it far, no doubt. I had him 1-2 I think, tried to bounce a curveball and left it up. Just not executed at all. That's on me. I have to do a better job, knowing we were going to score runs like we did. I just didn't execute pitches early and put us behind the eight-ball a little bit." -- Miley on Sano's home run and his poor overall start. .
WHAT'S NEXT Twins:Ricky Nolasco (1-3, 5.45 ERA) is making his 10th start, but has not won in six starts since his only victory at Milwaukee on April 21. Since that game, when he allowed one run on five hits in 6 1/3 innings, his ERA has climbed from 2.66 to 5.45. In his last start, he lasted a season-low 2 2/3 innings, giving up six runs on eight hits.
Mariners:Taijuan Walker (2-4, 2.70 ERA) starts Sunday's 1:10 p.m. PT series finale. The 23-year-old right-hander has faced the Twins once in his career, a 6-1 win last July 31 when he allowed just one run and one hit -- a Sano home run -- with one walk and 11 strikeouts in a complete game at Target Field.