Fast start propels Twins past Mariners
Seattle ace leaves after one out while Minnesota rallies
SEATTLE -- All of the hype leading up to Wednesday's game focused on how the Twins would fare against the Mariners' young phenom Felix Hernandez. The 21-year-old had yet to give up a run in 17 innings pitched and there was quite a bit of anticipation to see if he could continue the streak.But an early injury to Hernandez made it a game of trying to hold the lead, as the Twins somehow managed to squeak out a 5-4 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field. "We know that when we play the Mariners, you have to really battle for victories," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And we really had to do that tonight." The drama that came toward the end of the game was echoed early on, as the Twins only got to see the pitcher they had talked about all week for one-third of an inning before Hernandez left the game with tightness in his right elbow. Even before his early exit, things had started off very poorly for Hernandez, and the Twins took full advantage. He gave up two straight singles to Luis Castillo and Jason Tyner to start the game and Joe Mauer walked to load the bases. During the ensuing at-bat as he faced Michael Cuddyer, Hernandez delivered a wild pitch that allowed the first run to score. Another run scored on a Cuddyer groundout before Hernandez (2-1) left the game in the middle of Justin Morneau's at-bat. It was clear that Hernandez was bothered by something in his right elbow, and the Mariners got him off the mound in a hurry. Seeing Hernandez walk off the mound was eerily similar to the sight the Twins had just a year ago, when they saw their young phenom, Francisco Liriano, leave a game with pain in his throwing elbow. And knowing the struggles Liriano has faced since then, including undergoing Tommy John surgery this past offseason that will keep him off the mound until at least '08, Gardenhire empathized with the Mariners. "It was very unfortunate to see Felix go out," Gardenhire said. "We kind of had the same things with our young pitcher last year, and it's not a fun thing to see a young pitcher leave the mound. We don't like to see that, and don't think anybody does. That starts off the game the wrong way as far we're concerned, too." The wrong way to start was just limited to Hernandez's injury, as the Twins continued to add runs after he left the game. Jake Woods entered in the game for Hernandez and finished off the walk to Morneau that was charged to the young phenom. The next batter, Mike Redmond then delivered an RBI single to give the Twins a 3-0 lead. Minnesota added two more runs in the second off Woods, courtesy of a two-run single by Morneau that made it a 5-0 game with the Twins appearing to be fully in control. One reason for the Twins appearing to be comfortable in how the game was unfolding was due to the dominance that their starter Carlos Silva showed early in his outing. Silva (1-1) breezed through his first five innings, giving up just three hits and holding the Mariners scoreless. But it was in the sixth that things got dicey for the right-hander. Silva gave up back-to-back hits to Ichiro Suzuki and Adrian Beltre to start the inning and after two strong flyouts, Richie Sexson came to the plate. Silva then made what Gardenhire deemed his lone mistake of the game as he left a 1-0 fastball up to Sexson that the Mariners first baseman belted deep into the left-field seats to make it a 5-3 game. From there, the Twins saw what had appeared to be a secure lead start to look a tad shaky. Things got even more troublesome in the seventh, as Silva gave up hits to two of the three batters he faced to put the go-ahead run at the plate. That was the end of the night for Silva as Dennys Reyes replaced him on the mound. Reyes gave up a hit and made it a bases-loaded situation for Matt Guerrier with just one out. Guerrier got Beltre to strike out swinging before Morneau made a leaping grab of a Jose Vidro liner to end the scoring threat. "Matty made big pitches in that inning and got us out of it which was huge," Gardenhire said. The uneasy feeling for the Twins didn't end there either. With a two-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, closer Joe Nathan saw trouble come his way early. Nathan gave up a leadoff single to Yuniesky Betancourt that go things rolling. After a fielder's choice gave one out in the inning, Nathan then fell behind, 3-0, to Ichiro. Somehow he managed to get the pesky hitter to pop up to second but a single that found the right hole in the middle of the infield by Beltre put runners on first and second with two outs. Jose Vidro then hit a blooper over Morneau into right field that scored one run and as the ball squirted away from Cuddyer, the Mariners sent Beltre home as well. But Cuddyer managed to get the ball to the cutoff man, Castillo in the infield, who threw home to Redmond. The throw beat Beltre, and the game was over. A classic 9-4-2 play to complete the victory. Just the type of a crazy ending expected for such a crazy game. "Obviously, we just couldn't finish them in the ninth," Redmond said. "Joe was getting ahead with two strikes but just couldn't get that knockout blow. It was kind of a crazy play, but fortunately for us, Cuddy was heads up getting it to Luis and Luis made a great throw. It worked out, and we got the win." It seemed that everyone including Silva was left shaking their heads after such a victory. "That's a good hitting team right there," Silva said. "If don't have the 27 outs in your hands, don't fall asleep, because that is a good team out there and things can happen. Just look at tonight."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.