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SEA@HOU: Iwakuma fans seven over seven innings

The last time Minnesota and Seattle met -- at the beginning of June in Minneapolis -- both teams were coming off tough stretches and could not be described in any way as "hot."

As the Mariners play host this time, both teams will meet fresh off three straight series wins.

The Twins have been playing better baseball of late, especially after going 1-11 in their first 12 games of July. But in each of their last three series, the Twins have lost only one game, winning series against the Yankees, Indians and Angels.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire credits their strong defensive effort for keeping the Twins in games.

"I think everybody knows that pitching and defense wins a lot of baseball games," Gardenhire said. "You have to get the outs you're supposed to and not walk people and add extra baserunners. And we've been doing a decent job of that lately. We've done a great job defensively and you can see the fruits of it, because we're in every game and not giving them extra chances. Hopefully that continues."

Meanwhile, the Mariners saw their eight-game win streak -- which included series sweeps over the Angels and the Astros -- come to an Wednesday with a loss to the Indians, but they still won the series, two games to one.

Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma will open the four-game series with the Twins Thursday at Safeco Field. Iwakuma opened the Target Field series on May 31 and shutout the Twins 3-0, giving up only seven hits.

Iwakuma got back on track Saturday in Houston with seven innings of two-run ball in a game the Mariners won, 4-2, despite getting outhit, 7-1.

"That was a tough game," Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. "They put a lot of pressure on me until the very end. But I was able to stay within myself and made pitches when I needed to, being able to execute pitches in tough situations that got me out of a jam, and then we got that big hit from Michael Saunders. That was a game changer right there."

Iwakuma is 4-1 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts at Safeco this year. He earned his first Major League All-Star berth and leads the AL with a 0.95 WHIP.

Right-hander Kevin Correia gets the nod for the Twins Thursday. He's 7-6 with a 4.17 ERA and has been the Twins most consistent pitcher this season. Though he has been solid, he has been hurt by home runs, giving up 18 in his 19 starts. He's given up a home run in each of his last three outings.

"It was a flashback to like eight games," Correia said. "I feel like if I'd ever stop doing that, I'd have 15 wins."

Correia faced the Mariners previously this season in a 5-4 Twins win on June 1 and gave up three home runs. Correia allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks, but he didn't earn a decision.

Twins: Butera called up as Mauer goes on paternity leave
Drew Butera was called up from Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday after Joe Mauer flew home Tuesday night to attend the birth of his twin daughters early Wednesday morning.

Mauer can only be on the paternity list for a maximum of three days, meaning he has to rejoin the team Saturday in Seattle.

"We have not talked to him or asked him about that, but I'm assuming Joe will want to join as soon as he can," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "He has to be back with us Saturday, or else we'll have to do some paperwork."

Butera will fill the third catcher's spot on the 25-man roster. Prior to being called up, he was hitting .215 with two home runs and 10 RBIs.

Mariners: Wedge released from hospital
Seattle manager Eric Wedge is expected to make a full recovery after having what doctors believe was a mild stroke on Monday. He will miss at least the next 10 games as the Mariners' front office wants to "err on the side of caution."

"I've had several conversations with him and the doctors," said general manager Jack Zduriencik. "We expect a complete recovery. What he needs to do is stay home for the next short period of time. We expect him to be back sooner than later. He sounds normal, talking to him it sounds like everything is fine and he's ready to roll."

Bench coach Robby Thompson, who has filled in for Wedge in the last three games, will continue to manage the team in Wedge's absence.

Worth noting
• The Mariners and the Twins combined for only four hits in their respective losses Wednesday afternoon. Doug Bernier and Aaron Hicks picked up the Twins' pair of hits in their 3-0 loss in Los Angeles, while Justin Smoak and Nick Franklin had base knocks for the Mariners.

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