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Mariners turn tables, triumph via HR vs. Twins

Trio of homers back strong Kikuchi to 3rd win
May 19, 2019

SEATTLE -- What do you do after a team has battered you over the first three games of a series, setting their season high in runs in the process? You send out your own stopper, as the Mariners did with Yusei Kikuchi on Sunday. The left-hander continued to impress with

SEATTLE -- What do you do after a team has battered you over the first three games of a series, setting their season high in runs in the process?

You send out your own stopper, as the Mariners did with Yusei Kikuchi on Sunday.

The left-hander continued to impress with six solid innings, and Mitch Haniger and Daniel Vogelbach hit back-to-back homers in the fifth inning as the Mariners defeated the Twins, 7-4, at T-Mobile Park on Sunday.

Box score

With the victory, Seattle (23-26) avoided a sweep in the four-game series and got a boost ahead of starting a six-game road trip in Texas on Monday.

It also snapped a five-game winning streak by Minnesota (30-16), a day after the Twins scored a season high in runs in an 18-4 rout of Seattle.

But Sunday’s win started with Kikuchi (3-1), who allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks, striking out six.

“You do need the guy in your rotation to say, ‘No more. They’re not going to do that today,’” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He certainly did. … He established his fastball -- he’s got a really good fastball -- he did that today.”

The Mariners are 5-1 in Kikuchi’s past six starts, and he notched his seventh quality start of the season in 11 outings. His past five quality starts, including Sunday, have followed a Mariners loss.

In this game against the American League Central leading Twins, who have been hitting the ball all over T-Mobile Park, Kikuchi was aware he needed a big effort.

“In the past three days, I saw them as a hot-hitting team that was really strong against the fastball,” Kikuchi said through an interpreter. “And my strong-point is my fastball, too. So that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to throw it. I was just trying to overwhelm them more with my fastball tonight.”

And for one Sunday, that Minnesota team was overwhelmed.

Seattle took a 1-0 lead in the fourth -- its first lead of the series -- with back-to-back doubles by Edwin Encarnacion and Domingo Santana.

Kikuchi had his one hiccup of the game in the fifth.

He opened the inning with walks to Luis Arraez and Byron Buxton, then made a wild throw on a bunt by Jorge Polanco to plate Arraez to tie the game, 1-1.

Jonathan Schoop followed with a high chopper back to Kikuchi, which brought home the go-ahead run, and J.P. Crawford’s error later in the inning allowed Polanco to score for a 3-1 Twins lead.

But that lead didn’t last long.

Trailing 3-1 in the fifth, Haniger tied it with a two-run shot to left (his 12th), and Vogelbach followed with a solo blast to center (his 13th).

Encarnacion added a three-run homer in the seventh to further pad the lead for Seattle.

Encarnacion had a huge game in the field as well, stretching to get a throw from Kikuchi in the first, then making a diving grab on a short infield blooper by Willians Astudillo in the second.

“That was a heck of a play,” Servais said of Encarnacion’s diving catch. “The whole thing with Eddie, he’s so in tune with the game. His instincts are outstanding.”

But even though the Mariners retook the Major League lead in homers with 90, Servais made it clear that Kikuchi was the headliner on Sunday, even as he continues to adjust in his first Major League season.

“He’s really adjusted well,” Servais said. “Here we sit in the end of May, and already, he’s the guy who can take the ball and stop this losing streak.”