Trailing by a run in the sixth, the Mariners parlayed three hits, two sacrifice flies and Josh Willingham’s outfield boobery into four runs and held on through a wobbly ninth inning to defeat the Minnesota Twins 5-4 at Target Field Thursday to complete a seven-game road trip with a 3-4 record. Blake Beavan, erratic early when he couldn’t command his fastball, settled down when he went to his breaking ball and recorded his ninth victory.
After Beavan departed with a 5-2 lead, three relievers, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor and Tom Wilhelmsen, collaborated nearly to lose the game, but the Mariners eked out their eighth victory against the Twins in 10 games.
“We got through it and got it done,” said a relieved manager Eric Wedge. “We’ve had a lot of tough, tight games this season and this was one of them. Our guys are doing a better job in step-up opportunities.”
Beavan allowed two runs on three hits in the first inning, then posted a string of zeroes through the seventh. From the second inning on, he allowed just two hits and finished with two earned runs on five hits. He struck out one and issued two walks. At one point, he retired 10 consecutive batters.
Beavan pitched into the seventh for the first time since Aug. 1. Since his recall from AAA Tacoma July 17, Beavan is 6-2.
“Beaven struggled early, but started mixing up his pitches better and got us really deep in the game,” said Wedge.
Only to watch the whole thing nearly unravel.
Taking a 5-4 lead into the ninth, Wilhelmsen, working in his 59th game, issued a pair of walks and had two runners aboard, including Darin Mastroianni on third, when he induced lead-off hitter Ben Revere to bounce out to first. Justin Smoak charged in to take the grounder, and barely tagged out Revere running up the line.
“Smoak just barely got that guy, but that’s enough,” said Wedge.
Wilhelmsen’s save was his 21st in 24 opportunities.
The Mariners, bombed 10-0 Wednesday night, are are 12-5 since a five-game losing streak Aug. 5-10.
The Mariners got on the board in the first when Franklin Gutierrez doubled off Minnesota starter Brian Duensing and Kyle Seager, who went 1-for-3 with two RBIs, singled him home.
Beavan promptly began giving away the lead by walking the lead-off hitter, Rivera, on four pitches. After Rivera stole second, he scored on an Alexi Casilla single. Later in the inning, Justin Morneau hit a sacrifice that scored Joe Mauer, who singled to right.
The Mariners broke through in the sixth when they sent nine men to the plate and scored four runs. Brendan Ryan opened with a single, Dustin Ackley walked and Gutierrez singled, loading the bases. Seager’s sacrifice fly scored Ackley to tie at 2.
With runners on the corners, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire lifted Duensing and brought in Casey Fien to face Jesus Montero, which proved to be a mistake.
Montero lofted a fly to left center that clanked off Willingham’s glove for an error. Montero’s sacrifice fly scored Ackley for a 3-2 Seattle lead. With runners on the corners, Justin Smoak fanned, continuing a miserable road trip, but John Jaso, hitting for Miguel Olivo, walked to load the bases again.
Trayvon Robinson’s two-RBI single to left brought home Gutierrez and Montero for a 5-2 lead. That proved to be Seattle’s game-winning hit.
“That was a huge base hit right there,” said Wedge. “Trayvon has been putting up some tough ABs. He squared up on that one and got it done.”
“I wanted to stay within myself and not try to do too much,” said Robinson. “In my first two at-bats, I tried to do too much. But not the third one. It felt good.”
Furbush took over in the eighth and walked Casilla. Pryor then took over for Furbush and immediately gave up Willingham’s 33rd home run, slicing Seattle’s lead to 5-4. But Wilhelmsen escaped further damage in the ninth.
The Mariners return to Safeco Field Friday night for a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels. Kevin Millwood (4-11, 4.28) starts for Seattle and will oppose Dan Haren (8-10, 4.82).
NOTES: The victory secured the Mariners’ second consecutive winning month: 15-11 in July and 15-11 in August . . . The series win was Seattle’s 18th of the season . . . Mariners now have 20 come-from-behind wins. . . Mariners have won 21 of their past 32 games . . . Through 132 games, the Mariners have scored 517 runs and allowed 519 . . . Jesus Montero collected a base hit in his last at-bat Thursday, finishing the trip 1-for-10 . . . Justin Smoak went 0-for-12 in the series . . . Mariners have won 17 of 18 games against teams under .500 . . . Mariners have hit 116 home runs this season, seven more than they hit in the entire .2011 campaign . . . Mariners have hit 28 home runs in August, most in a single month this season, and most in any month since hitting 29 in September, 2009.