MINNEAPOLIS -- Mariners lefty James Paxton took matters into his own hands on Friday with a powerful seven-inning outing, and he got plenty of help from his offense as Seattle topped the Twins, 10-1, to stay in pursuit of an American League Wild Card.
"This is what we need," Paxton said. "We need to win right now. Guys are playing hard, and we're just doing our best to stay right there and climb up in the Wild Card standings."
The Mariners have now won 11 of their last 15 games and seven straight on the road to put their record at 81-72. With nine games to go, they remain two back of the Tigers for the second Wild Card spot after Detroit topped the Royals, 8-3.
Paxton improved to 5-7 with a 3.72 ERA as he allowed just one run on five hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in an efficient 85-pitch outing. Nelson Cruz capped a six-run seventh for Seattle with a two-run double and then unloaded a two-run homer in the eighth, while Robinson Cano had four hits and two RBIs.
Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson took the loss as he gave up two runs on five hits over five innings and is now 1-8 with a 5.21 ERA in 13 home starts. Minnesota has been outscored 40-10 in losing seven straight while falling to 55-99.
"I think it was a step in the right direction for me," Gibson said. "I felt a little better. But it's tough to be too satisfied with a game where you go five innings and throw 100 pitches and your team loses 10-1."
The offensive breakout was a welcome sight for the Mariners, who had totaled just 16 runs in a 2-4 homestand before hitting the road for a final time this season. More >
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Buxton's great grab: Twins center fielder Byron Buxton has made several impressive catches this year, but robbing Cruz of a potential three-run homer in the third might've been his best of the season. The center fielder raced back to the wall and made a leaping catch to rob Cruz to end the inning. Buxton had a first step of 0.47 seconds, covering 94 feet with a route efficiency of 98.3 percent, per Statcast™. He also reached 17.1 mph. More >
"When he hit it, I thought it was out of the park," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He ran a good route and got back there to make a good catch without having the wall knock the ball out of his glove. Kept it at 1 at that moment. Big play at that time."
The hits kept coming: Seattle batted around in a seventh inning that saw the Mariners tally six runs (five earned) on five hits, two walks and two errors -- both on the same play by left fielder Robbie Grossman -- against four Twins pitchers. Cano's third hit of game got things started as he drove in his second run and continued snapping out of a funk that had seen him hit .157 (8-for-51) over the previous 13 games. Back-to-back doubles by Cruz and Kyle Seager made it 6-0 and Mike Zunino drove in his second run of the game with a single to left that turned into an adventure for Grossman and allowed a second unearned run to score as well.
"The biggest thing in this game is to do the job with men in scoring position," Cano said. "The only way you can win is scoring runs. Paxton was pitching really good and you want to give him some support."
Twins finally get on the board: The Twins couldn't get anything going offensively against Paxton. Minnesota didn't score until the bottom of the seventh, when Miguel Sano tripled to deep center and scored on a single from Kennys Vargas.
"Offensively, we had nothing going against Paxton," Molitor said. "We had a couple scratch singles, things like that. Sano got the triple and we got on the board. But not a particularly good game overall."
Get out the tape measure: Cruz got robbed by Buxton in the third, but he didn't leave anything to doubt in the eighth when he launched a monster home run off the facade above the batter's eye in center field for a two-run shot that gave Seattle a 10-1 lead. Cruz's 38th homer of the season was projected at 454 feet by Statcast™, with an exit velocity of 111 mph. The home run was Cruz's second-longest recorded by Statcast™ this year, topped only by a 459-footer against the Orioles on July 2 at Safeco Field. It was the third longest homer hit this year at Target Field.
"I told the guys, I have to hit it where he can't catch it," Cruz said with a smile.
"Outstanding outing by Paxton. He's got a ton of confidence. You see it. He's attacking hitters and trusting his stuff. When you have that kind of stuff, it's easy to trust. Hopefully we can keep him in a good spot and see this going forward." -- Mariners manager Scott Servais
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Zunino's two RBIs give him 29 in 141 at-bats over 48 games since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma. The 24-year-old catcher totaled 28 RBIs in 350 at-bats over 112 games last year.
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners:Ariel Miranda (5-1, 3.88 ERA) starts Saturday's 4:10 p.m. PT rematch at Target Field. The 27-year-old southpaw is 4-0 with a 2.16 ERA in four September starts. This will be his first time facing the Twins.
Twins: Right-hander Tyler Duffey (8-11, 6.39 ERA) is set to start on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. CT in the second-to-last game at Target Field this season. Duffey is coming off a rough start, as he allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Tigers on Sept. 14.