MINNEAPOLIS -- Other than a prodigious blast by Nelson Cruz, right-hander Tyler Duffey shut down the Mariners for seven innings Saturday as the Twins snapped a seven-game losing streak and dented Seattle's Wild Card pursuits with a 3-2 victory at Target Field.
Duffey held the Mariners to four hits and two runs, both coming on a Cruz blast projected at 493 feet by Statcast™, the second-longest in the Majors this year. Duffey (9-11, 6.18 ERA) had been 0-3 with an 11.15 ERA his previous four starts, but he shut down the Mariners and helped stave off the Twins' 100th loss of the season as they improved to 56-99.
"When you get ticked off enough, eventually you make an adjustment," said Duffey, who was pitching on nine days' rest. "I had some time in between starts to do so and I felt better. I just slowed down and found a good rhythm and kept from pulling off the ball to locate better."
Seattle saw its seven-game road win streak end and fell to 81-73, 2 1/2 games back of Baltimore for the second American League Wild Card spot with eight games remaining. The Orioles beat Arizona, 6-1, while the Tigers lost 7-4 to the Royals as those two teams flip-flopped positions in front of the Mariners.
The Mariners had runners on first and second with no outs in the top of the ninth after a single by Robinson Canó and an error on Twins third baseman Miguel Sanó. But Sano made a leaping stop of a high chopper by Kyle Seager and turned that into a double play before Brandon Kintzler got Adam Lind to pop out for the final out in a game that lasted just two hours, six minutes.
"I told [shortstop Jorge] Polanco I wanted another chance there to turn a double play to win the game," Sano said. "It was my fault when I missed the ball."
The Mariners went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position on a night they totaled just five hits.
"We certainly need to score more than two runs," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "It just wasn't a real sharp night all around. Just not a lot going offensively. We obviously had some chances late, but just didn't get the big hit."
Mariners lefty Aríel Miranda was pulled after just four innings and 52 pitches after giving up three runs on three hits, including solo blasts by Polanco and Sano. Miranda came into the game with a chance to become just the 14th rookie since 1913 to go 5-0 in September, but he departed with a 3-2 deficit. The 27-year-old is now 5-2 with a 4.10 ERA since being acquired from the Orioles on July 31.
"I felt fine. It just wasn't my night," said Miranda. "My secondary pitches were not very good. The breaking ball wasn't working, so I had to throw the fastball and that's when I got hit. My fastball command was a little up."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Polanco, Sano go deep: When the Twins swept the Mariners in late May, they hit eight homers in their three-game series and it was the long ball that again propelled them on Saturday. Polanco was the first to go deep, giving the Twins a 1-0 lead with a solo shot in the first for his third homer of the year. Sano broke a 2-2 tie with a go-ahead solo blast that stayed just fair down the left-field line. It was the 23rd homer of the year for Sano.
"Offensively, not a huge night but we got a couple of homers," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It was just enough. But it feels good to win a game."
Monster mash: Cruz unloaded his second tape-measure shot in the past two days and this one truly was something to behold, a third-deck launch off a 92-mph full-count fastball from Duffey in the fourth inning. At 493 feet, it was second only to Giancarlo Stanton's 504-foot blast for the Marlins on Aug. 6 at Coors Field on Statcast™'s longest-measured home runs this season. Cruz ripped a 454-footer the night before over the batter's eye in center. The 36-year-old slugger needs one more home run to reach 40 for three straight years.
"I squared it up pretty good," Cruz said. "I wasn't expecting to go that measure. You never know with Statcast™." More >
Duffey's adjustments pay off: The Twins skipped Duffey's turn in the rotation to have him work on his mechanics and the plan worked, as he turned in one of his better outings, registering his first quality start since Aug. 13. Duffey was efficient, needing only 85 pitches to get through seven innings.
"Duffey hung in there," Molitor said. "He didn't really have a changeup. He only threw two or three. But he got by with the two pitches. He had trouble with the curveball early, but it came around late. There were a couple moments of concern but he gathered himself and was able to get through seven."
Nothing wrong with the 'pen: After Miranda was pulled, Mariners relievers Drew Storen, Evan Scribner and Tom Wilhelmsen combined for four perfect innings with six strikeouts. Storen shut down the Twins in order in the fifth and sixth with three whiffs, Scribner struck out two in the seventh and Wilhelmsen had one K in the eighth. Seattle's bullpen has a 1.80 ERA over 50 innings in its last 16 games.
"MIranda was fine physically," Servais said. "We're kind of at the point in the season where you're getting a read on his stuff and at that point, we got the game tied, the first pitch it was untied [by Sano]. We got through that inning, we just felt we weren't in position to give up a whole lot more. Our bullpen did a nice job. They kept us right there and gave us a chance."
"They're all important. Tonight was important, tomorrow is important. The next day is important. That's just where we're at in the season. It's disappointing. We had a chance with Detroit losing to make up a little ground, but we'll show up tomorrow." -- Servais
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
The Mariners successfully challenged a safe call on an infield single by Byron Buxton in the eighth. After a review, the call was overturned as replay showed third baseman Kyle Seager's throw just beat the speedy Buxton to the bag.
Mariners:Taijuan Walker (6-11, 4.32 ERA) starts Sunday's 11:10 a.m. PT series finale and would love to replicate his lone previous outing in Target Field, when he threw a complete-game one-hitter -- the one hit being a home run -- with 11 strikeouts in a 6-1 victory last season.
Twins: Left-hander Héctor Santiago (12-9, 4.82 ERA) will take the mound for the Twins against the Mariners in the final game of the year at Target Field at 1:10 p.m. CT. After posting a 10.89 ERA in his first four starts with the Twins, Santiago has been much better his last five outings with a 3.26 ERA.
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