Morales' timely hitting helps Pino to first win

Thirty-year-old rookie gets in victory column in fifth MLB start

Morales' timely hitting helps Pino to first win

SEATTLE -- The Twins have struggled over the past few weeks, so while it was not quite a make-or-break four-game series against the Mariners, it was important to help the club get some momentum heading into the All-Star break.

The Twins started it off with a loss on Monday, their 11th in 14 games, but they righted the ship from there against Seattle, which is one of two Wild Card leaders in the American League.

On Thursday in the series finale, Yohan Pino picked up his first Major League win with five strong innings, and Kendrys Morales added two RBIs against his former team to help lead the Twins to a 4-2 win at Safeco Field.

It gave the Twins their third straight victory and the series win. The Twins last won a series when they swept the White Sox in a four-game set at Target Field from June 19-22.

"Ultimately we won three out of four here, and that's pretty good for us," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We set out to have a winning road trip, and we're off to a good start."

Pino, a 30-year-old rookie who pitched 10 seasons in the Minors before making his big league debut, gave up just one run on seven hits and two walks to get his first big league victory in his fifth start. He was optioned after the game to make room for left-hander Kris Johnson, who joins the rotation on Friday.

Pino, though, is expected to rejoin the rotation after the All-Star break and was elated to get his first win.

"It was nice," said Pino, who was given the game ball after the win. "I feel happy for my family and for everybody on the team. I just feel happy."

The Mariners scored their lone run against Pino on a solo homer from Kyle Seager in the second inning. They loaded the bases twice against him, including with two outs in the fifth, but Pino was able to get Corey Hart to ground out softly to first baseman Chris Parmelee to get out of the jam.

"We had runners on; we had our chances," Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison said. "We didn't get the job done tonight."

Seattle used six relievers, with right-hander Felix Hernandez's start pushed back a day to allow him to start against the division-leading A's on Friday. Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen started for the Mariners, and he gave up two runs (one earned) on one hit and three walks over 2 2/3 innings to get pegged with the loss.

The Twins got on the board with two runs in the second keyed by a throwing error from catcher Mike Zunino. The Twins executed a double steal, but Zunino's throw to third sailed into left field to allow Sam Fuld to score and Brian Dozier to advance to third. Dozier then scored on a sacrifice fly from Kurt Suzuki to take the lead.

Minnesota extended its lead in a two-run fifth inning, when Morales drove in both runs with a double off reliever Joe Beimel, though the runs were charged to Danny Farquhar.

"He's starting to barrel up some balls," Gardenhire said. "He really crushed that one to center. It really took off."

The Mariners rallied in the seventh by loading the bases with one out. Seager brought home a run with a sacrifice fly to left field, but James Jones was thrown out trying to advance to third base, ending the inning. Jones was originally ruled safe, but the play was overturned in Gardenhire's second successful challenge of the night.

"Hammer made a great throw and it was right on line, but I saw Jones right in front of me and didn't want to risk a bang-bang play at home and have him safe, so I just caught it," Plouffe said. "I threw it to Eskie, and he made a great tag and stayed with it.

Relievers Casey Fien and closer Glen Perkins each threw a scoreless inning to preserve the win for the Twins, who now head to Colorado for the final series of the first half.

"We knew it would be nice to take some momentum into the break," Plouffe said. "So again we'll try to win the series and try to get the first one tomorrow."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.