Twins rally, stave off Mariners in win
Buscher's clutch hit, Span's big throw help salvage finale
SEATTLE -- Mike Redmond walked into the visiting clubhouse at Safeco Field after Wednesday's game and was greeted by his two young sons, who were eager to deliver a message to him."Dad, way to tackle that guy," said Redmond's 7-year-old son, Ryan. It wasn't quite a tackle, but Redmond's block of home plate and ensuing tag in the eighth inning helped to secure a 6-5 victory over the Mariners. The win ended a streak of four consecutive losses for the Twins and prevented the series sweep by Seattle, which has proven to be quite a tough opponent for Minnesota this season. Heading into Wednesday's contest, Minnesota was 1-4 at Safeco Field in its two trips there this month. And even at home in its three wins over Seattle, there were plenty of tense moments. "I don't know what it is between us and them, but it's some kind of baseball," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's never-say-die on both sides, and it's been rough playing them. They've got some great hitters that keep coming back at you. It's nonstop, you just grab your seat and hold on." On a day when the Twins felt like they desperately needed a win, they got one in heart-pumping fashion. After giving up two leads early in the contest and then watching Seattle take a one-run advantage in the seventh on a two-out home run by Raul Ibanez off starter Glen Perkins, Minnesota finally staged a comeback in the eighth. But just like the previous eight games between the ballclubs this month, no lead was safe in the late innings. Matt Guerrier came in and got the first out of the eighth before the Twins turned to left-hander Eddie Guardado. Following a strikeout for the second out of the inning, Guardado gave up back-to-back doubles to allow one run to score and put the tying run at second base. Tug Hulett went into the game to pinch-run for Jeff Clement at second base, and Miguel Cairo stepped to the plate. That's when things really got dramatic. Cairo lined a single into shallow right field. Right fielder Denard Span charged in on the ball quickly, and after making sure the ball was in his glove, Span put everything into a throw home. The toss was perfect, straight to the chest of Redmond, who was waiting with one foot blocking the plate. When Hulett tried to slide around the back of the plate, Redmond was there to make the tag. "In my mind, he was going to have to come over me to score that run," Redmond said. "I was ready for him to blow me up, but it ended up working out. So that was obviously a big play, just to hold them off." From Guardado's fist pump and Redmond remaining on the ground behind home plate for a moment after the play to soak it in, it was clear that everyone knew the importance of the out. Even Span, who couldn't conceal his smile as he ran to the dugout, was left a little in awe by the play. "So many things have to happen perfect when you are throwing the ball from the outfield," Span said. "It has to be either a perfect hop or hit the catcher perfect in the chest. I can see why a lot of third-base coaches send people, because the chances of a perfect throw are very slim. It's one of these times where I hit Redmond perfect in the chest, and he got the tag down to keep them from scoring." Guardado greeted Span with an offhand thanks in the dugout, a joking face slap to say, "Way to go rookie." "You'd love to go without giving up a run or a walk, but things happen," Guardado said. "That's why you've got your defense out there for you, and wow -- what a great throw." It wasn't exactly how Gardenhire would have scripted the eighth, but it seemed something like déjà vu. "I remember him as my closer, so that was nothing," Gardenhire quipped of Guardado's inning. "That's the way it always was when he closed -- a couple of hits, guys getting thrown out, and he's fist-pumping." There was quite a bit about the victory that didn't go the way the Twins would have planned -- such as their comeback earlier that inning. Three straight hits in the eighth, including a leadoff double by Justin Morneau and an RBI double to center from Jason Kubel, got the rally started as Minnesota knotted the game at 4. With runners on second and third and one out, Gardenhire turned to Brian Buscher to pinch-hit. The left-handed hitter was getting ready to head to the plate when the Mariners called for a pitching change, bringing in left-hander Cesar Jimenez.
Not exactly what the Twins had expected with Buscher batting just .100 in 30 at-bats against lefties this season."Their lefty was hiding in a corner over there," said Gardenhire, who added that he was aware that a left-hander had warmed up earlier in the 'pen, but they didn't see Jimenez. He stuck with Buscher despite the change in pitchers, and the infielder rewarded his skipper, drilling a single up the middle that scored two runs and gave Minnesota a 6-4 lead. "We had talked and said, 'If a lefty gives you something out and over the plate, you can't go deep in the count, just go after it and hit it,'" Gardenhire said. "Buscher put a good swing on it, and that was huge." After the Twins escaped the bottom of the eighth, Joe Nathan came in and pitched a perfect ninth vs. the top of the Mariners' order to pick up his 36th save of the season. The win brought Perkins' record to 10-1 in his past 11 starts and allowed Minnesota to head to Oakland with the momentum that it had been lacking heading into Wednesday. It was not exactly how the Twins planned on pulling off a win. But for a team that's been pressing a bit lately while in the midst of a pennant race with the White Sox, perhaps this was just the thing to get back on track. "We needed a big win in a close game, and that's exactly what we got," Redmond said. "Sometimes games like this bring your team together."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.