Mariners keep pace in WC race, beat Twins

Mariners keep pace in WC race, beat Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Time may be running out on the Mariners playoff chances, but they kept hope alive with a 4-3 victory over the Twins on Sunday behind a trio of home runs by Nelson Cruz and Jesus Sucre at Target Field.

Cruz ripped a pair of homers -- giving him four in past three games and 41 on the year -- while Sucre's go-ahead two-run shot in the fifth was his first of the season as Seattle secured its first series win over the Twins since 2012

With current Wild Card leaders Toronto and Baltimore both winning Sunday, the Mariners math got even harder. Seattle sits at 82-73 with seven games remaining, four back of the Blue Jays and 2 1/2 behind the Orioles.

Cruz homers after awkward swing

"Nothing is over until it's over," said Cruz. "We've got to fight and just keep battling. Hopefully at the end we can come up and surprise a lot of people."

The Mariners would be in prime position if not for a 2-4 record against the Twins, who fell to 56-100 as they closed out their final homestand of the season. It's just their second 100-loss season since moving to Minnesota in 1961, having lost 102 games in 1982.

Walker escapes jam

"It doesn't sit well, I've never experienced it," Twins manager Paul Molitor said of the 100 losses. "It doesn't happen very often and 99 isn't very good either so you live with it. It's going to stare at you all winter. I know that."

Robbie Grossman went 3-for-3 with a walk for the Twins, while starter Hector Santiago, acquired from the Angels on Aug. 1, allowed five hits and four runs over 5 2/3 innings as he dropped to 12-10 with a 4.87 ERA. The 28-year-old is now 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA in five starts against the Mariners since 2015.

Taijuan Walker (7-11, 4.35 ERA) picked up the win as he went 5 1/3 innings with nine hits and three runs before relievers NIck Vincent, Steve Cishek and Edwin Diaz slammed the door.

Cishek induces key double play

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
He's on Target: Cruz concluded his weekend launch party with two more homers, a solo blast into the second deck in left-center leading off the second on a shot projected at 432 feet by Statcast™ and a 381-foot laser line drive leading off the sixth, giving the Mariners slugger 1,760 feet worth of long balls in the three-game series (493, 454, 432 and 381). Cruz now has 40-plus homers for a third straight season and is three shy of his career best of 44. He might have more if he played more often at Target Field, where he's hit .429 (12-for-28) with five doubles, nine homers and 16 RBIs over a 10-game hitting streak dating back to May 2, 2014. Cruz was taken out of the game in the eighth due to a sore left wrist that cropped up on the pitch before his second home run.

"It was a heck of a day and heck of a series by Nelson," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "Outstanding. Unfortunately he came out of the game with a little twinge there in his wrist. Hopefully he's going to be okay when we get to Houston." More >

Cruz's 40th homer of the season

Max power: After Cruz's homer tied the game in the second, the Twins quickly retook the lead with a solo shot from Kepler on the second pitch in the bottom of the second. It was the rookie's 17th of the year, and his first since Aug. 31. Kepler's homer left the bat at 101 mph and went a projected 396 feet, per Statcast™.

"We got a couple runs, but we had a chance to add on there but missed some opportunities," Molitor said. "We kept it close but couldn't find a way to score."

Kepler homers to right

Sweet Sucre: How to explain the September success of Mariners third-string catcher? The 28-year-old Venezuelan had a career average of .176 in 222 at-bats over the past four years prior to his September callup, but he's gone 10-for-14 in four games since rejoining the club and his two-run homer in the fifth gave Seattle a 3-2 lead, just the second home run of his big league career. Sucre went 2-for-3 with the home run, a double and hit-by-pitch.

"What do you want me to say?" Sucre said with a laugh. "I'm happy right now. We're trying to win games and make it to the playoffs. This is pretty good."

Sucre's two-run homer to left

Centeno cashes in: Grossman sparked a rally with a one-out double in the sixth and came around to score on an RBI single from Centeno. Centeno's RBI single knocked Walker from the game.

Centeno's RBI single

QUOTABLE
"Despite the year, we felt supported by our fans, drawing close to 2 million fans in a year in which things didn't go particularly well. I just wanted to acknowledge that on behalf of the team, we appreciate the people coming out." -- Molitor, on the the Twins drawing 1,963,912 fans at Target Field despite going a franchise-worst 31-50 at home

"This is what we talked about way back in February. Can we play some meaningful games right down the stretch, right to the end, and find out a lot about our team? Our players are finding out a lot about themselves. Some of these guys have never been through this before. So it's exciting. They need to enjoy it and have fun. I've said that from Day 1." -- Servais, on the Mariners playoff push.

WHAT'S NEXT
Mariners: Hisashi Iwakuma (16-12, 4.04 ERA) gets the start on Monday at 5:10 p.m. PT as Seattle opens a key three-game series in Houston against right-hander Collin McHugh (12-10, 4.61). Iwakuma is 1-2 with a 4.24 ERA in three meetings with the Astros this year.

Twins: After an off-day on Monday, the Twins head to Kansas City for a three-game series that begins on Monday at 6:15 p.m. CT. Rookie right-hander Jose Berrios (2-7, 8.88 ERA) will look to build on his last start that saw him throw three scoreless innings against the Tigers before it was ultimately washed out by rain.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

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

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

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