SEATTLE -- Mike Zunino crushed a pair of home runs -- including a two-run walk-off with two out in the ninth -- as the red-hot Mariners pulled out a 6-5 victory over the Twins on Wednesday night at Safeco Field.Zunino hit his game-winner 437 feet to right-center off Twins closer
SEATTLE -- Mike Zunino crushed a pair of home runs -- including a two-run walk-off with two out in the ninth -- as the red-hot Mariners pulled out a 6-5 victory over the Twins on Wednesday night at Safeco Field.
Zunino hit his game-winner 437 feet to right-center off Twins closer Brandon Kintzler after Ben Gamel's two-out single. The Mariners had just five hits on the night, but four were home runs, including Zunino's third and fourth of the season.
"Awesome," Zunino said after the first walk-off homer of his career. "I got to a spot with a guy who has a good sinker. He was trying to stay away and I was just trying to elevate. And I was able to get that pitch, stay inside and just drive it that way. I squared it up pretty good. Obviously that part of the park, you never know, but I hit it pretty well."
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The Mariners have won nine of their last 10 games to pull even at .500 for the first time since May 11, at 30-30.
"We're playing good ball," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "That's the big thing, playing up to your capability. We certainly weren't doing that earlier in the season. We had the horrible stretch where we couldn't score any runs. It's just nice to come to the ballpark, guys have a smile on their face because guys can't wait to get going, because they know some way we're going to be in a competitive ballgame and find a way to win it."
Miguel Sano's three-run homer off Yovani Gallardo in the fifth had given the Twins a 5-2 lead, but they couldn't hold on as they fell to 29-26, still one game up on Cleveland in the American League Central. Rookie southpaw Adalberto Mejia wound up with a no-decision with a five-inning outing in which he allowed three runs on just two hits with three walks.
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"It put us ahead," Twins manager Paul Molitor of Sano's home run, "but we just couldn't find a way to add on and they pecked away at it one at a time until they got the big one at the end."
Zunino, Carlos Ruiz and Kyle Seager all ripped solo home runs for Seattle prior to Zunino's walk-off. Gallardo (2-6, 6.26 ERA) pitched a season-high seven innings while giving up five runs on six hits.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Back-to-back backstops: With designated hitter Nelson Cruzsidelined by a tight right calf, the Mariners received an unexpected power boost from their two catchers. Zunino led off the third with a home run off Mejia, a 386-foot first-pitch shot to left field. And 38-year-old backup catcher Ruiz, filling in at DH, followed with a 419-foot blast into the upper deck for his first home run as a Mariner. The two solo shots put Seattle ahead 2-1.
"We told Skip it could be dangerous putting two catchers in there," Zunino said with a laugh. "We sort of rode with that energy in the pregame and when our first at-bats happened, it was a lot of fun. It was great to see Chooch have that swing."
Big blow for Sano: The Twins third baseman launched his 15th homer of the season and it was both timely and prodigious, traveling 416 feet to left-center. Gallardo has been prone to the big inning and he got bit again with a four-run frame as Ehire Adrianza doubled, Joe Mauer tied the game with a sharp single to center and Sano gave Minnesota the lead by unloading on a 1-1 curveball. Sano moved into a tie with Cruz for most RBIs in the AL with 46.
"It's funny. Mike was walking to the plate and [hitting coach Edgar Martinez] says to me, 'This is a good matchup, This guy throws a good sinker and that's what Zunino hits.' And lo and behold, three pitches later we were walking away. Awesome job by our guys to hang in there. And without Cruz in the lineup, everybody chipping in." -- Servais on Zunino's big hit
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Mariners have outscored their opponents 75-30 in winning nine of their last 10 after being outscored 50-9 and going 1-7 in their previous eight games.
THE EJECT BUTTON
Mariners first baseman Danny Valencia was tossed from the game in the bottom of the eighth after barking at home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna after grounding out to end the inning. Valencia, apparently unhappy with the strike zone on his previous pitch, got his first ejection as a Mariner. Jarrod Dyson entered the game in center field for the ninth, with Taylor Motter moving to first base to take Valencia's spot. Valencia was 10-for-13 in the previous four games, but 0-for-4 on Wednesday against his former Twins team.
Twins:Kyle Gibson will be on the hill for Thursday's 9:10 p.m. CT series finale, looking to continue his recent good fortune. After posting an 8.62 ERA in his first eight starts, he has a 3.27 ERA in his last two.
Mariners:Christian Bergman (3-2, 4.36 ERA) looks to continue his impressive run as a fill-in starter for Seattle's short-handed rotation in Thursday's 7:10 p.m. game, having allowed just two runs over 13 innings while winning his last two outings. This will be his first time facing the Twins.
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Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. He covered the Twins on Wednesday.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [