Mauer, Sano slug Twins to sweep in Seattle

Mauer, Sano slug Twins to sweep in Seattle

SEATTLE -- Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano continued mashing Mariners pitching, and Ricky Nolasco pitched six innings of two-run ball as the Twins secured their first series sweep at Safeco Field since 2007 with a 5-4 win on Sunday.

Mauer and Sano hit back-to-back homers in the fourth inning, giving both a home run in each of the three wins in Seattle, as the Twins improved to 15-34 and matched their season-best four-game win streak. Robbie Grossman also homered for Minnesota, which totaled eight long balls while outscoring Seattle 18-11 in the series.

Coupled with a Rangers win over the Pirates, the loss dropped Seattle out of the American League West lead for the first time in two weeks at 28-21, including a 10-14 mark at Safeco. The Mariners managed just three hits -- including a solo homer by Robinson Cano -- off Nolasco as he picked up his second win of the season.

"It was a good three games. A good series, good to get a sweep, and hopefully we can keep this momentum going," Mauer said. "It's pretty fun when you've got some guys up and down the lineup swinging the bats and driving in runs."

Grossman's solo home run

Franklin Gutierrez's two-run homer in the ninth off closer Kevin Jepsen closed the final margin to one run. Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker continued his May struggles, allowing six hits -- including the three homers -- and five runs in 4 1/3 innings. After going 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA in four April starts, the 23-year-old is 0-5 with a 4.91 ERA in six starts this month.

"The home run just killed us in this series," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "Both Sano and Mauer had good series. We made some mistakes, and they took advantage of them. I thought Taijuan's stuff was just OK. He was trying to compete and find it, but he did make some mistakes, and they got him."

Jepsen's save

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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Cano connects again: The Mariners' second baseman got Seattle on the board in the first with a line shot into the right-field seats on the first pitch he saw. It was Cano's 15th homer of the year, tying him for the Major League lead with Mark Trumbo of the Orioles, Todd Frazier of the White Sox and Yoenis Cespedes of the Mets. He's also two behind Boston's David Ortiz for the MLB lead with 44 RBIs and is hitting .297 after a 2-for-4 day.

"I'm just trying to be ready for the first pitch," said Cano, who is batting .526 with five homers in 38 at-bats when he's connected on a 0-0 pitch. "I don't want to be taking a strike and then have to swing at whatever they throw. I'm just trying to take advantage of anything over the plate."

Cano's solo home run

Sano going, going gone: Sano homered for the fourth consecutive game for the first time in his career. He has hit eight homers since May 11 and 29 since last July 2. Eight of his 11 homers this season have been on the road.

Sano's solo home run

Nolasco's special K: Nolasco, who had struggled all season with runners on base, struck out Nelson Cruz with two aboard to end the third inning, then did not allow another hit. Prior to Sunday, opponents were batting .364 (28-for-77) against Nolasco with runners on. Nolasco, who had not won since his only previous victory on April 21, was coming off his worst start of the season (six runs allowed on eight hits in a season-low 2 2/3 innings).

"It was a good bounce-back start," Nolasco said. "I wish I could have gone a little deeper, but they battle. You get up on them, they just keep grinding and grinding, fouling balls off, laying off of some tough pitches. I just tried not to give in and win some battles. They hit some balls right at some guys, and that helped."

Nolasco's strong start

Oh, what a relief: After Walker's rough start, the Mariners' bullpen again stepped up to stop the bleeding as Vidal Nuno came on for 2 2/3 scoreless innings with just one hit and four strikeouts, and Steve Johnson and Joel Peralta each added a perfect frame. Nuno lowered his ERA to 1.08 in 19 appearances with one walk and 20 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings. Combined with fellow lefty Mike Montgomery, Seattle's two southpaws have a 1.38 ERA over 45 2/3 innings with 44 strikeouts and eight walks.

"We needed that at that point in the game to keep it close," Servais said. "[Nuno] had been down for a few days and hadn't pitched in a while, so it was nice to see him step up there and give us a little length."

Mariners turn two

QUOTABLE
"It should have been fastballs, but it wasn't. Their first ABs I beat them with fastballs, the second time through I tried to sneak a couple off-speed pitches by them, and they got them." -- Walker, on the homers by Mauer and Sano

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Mauer had homered in three consecutive games only once in his career -- in 2009, when he went on to be named the AL MVP.

Mauer's solo home run

WHAT'S NEXT
Twins: Right-hander Ervin Santana (1-3, 4.17 ERA) is coming off his worst start of the season, allowing six runs on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. But, he's always been tough on the A's, going 15-6 with a 2.03 ERA in 27 career starts against them, including 7-2 with a 1.93 ERA at Oakland. First pitch Monday is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. CT.

Mariners: Nathan Karns (4-1, 3.53 ERA) starts Monday's 1:10 p.m. PT Memorial Day game at Safeco Field against San Diego. It will be the first time the 28-year-old right-hander has faced the Padres, but he is 3-1 with a 3.32 ERA in four starts against National League opponents in his career.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Jim Hoehn is a contributor to MLB.com based in Seattle and covered the Twins on Sunday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.