The Mariners made a move to get better Tuesday. It just had no affect on the game that followed.
Chris Young (8-5, 3.08 ERA) pitched another fine game, only to be out-dueled by Twins starter Phil Hughes, who continued his resurgence in Minnesota with 7.1 shutout innings in a 2-0 triumph.“We ran into a buzzsaw tonight,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “His fastball command was exceptional. He was in and out, he cut it, he sank it, he elevated it — he’s pretty darn good.
“The guy pitched a helluva game. That’s the way it goes.”
Prior to the contest, Seattle recalled Jesus Sucre from Triple-A Tacoma, the expected replacement for backup catcher John Buck, who was designated for assignment after Monday’s game. McClendon said the move makes the Mariners a stronger club.
Sucre is a defensive force who recently picked it up offensively, posting a .345 average in 15 games with the Rainiers in June. His receiving skills draw raves from coaches and scouts. He threw out 21 of 41 would-be base stealers this season.
But no matter how good the pitching and defense, the offense has to produce. Over the last four games, Seattle allowed five runs in 41 innings for a 1.09 ERA, and is 2-2.
“You can make out of it what you want to — for me, it’s five games,” McClendon said. “That’s just the nature of the beast. I’m not going to sit here every night and say, ‘Well, we’re struggling,’ and the next night, ‘Oh, we’re great.’
“I love our approaches, the results were not there. That’s baseball.”
Seattle (49-41) had a couple of opportunities against Hughes, none better than in the seventh. With James Jones and Michael Saunders on first and second after a pair of one-out singles, Robinson Cano came to the plate.
Twins’ manager Ron Gardenhire elected to relieve Hughes in favor of Casey Fien, who induced Cano to ground into a 4-3 double play on two pitches.
“We had opportunities, they made great pitches,” McClendon said. “That happens.”
The Twins added Hughes (9-5, 3.70 ERA) in the off-season with a three-year, $24 million contract, pulling him away from the Yankees. He has been a model of consistency, pitching to a sparkling 2.54 ERA over an 11-start stretch from April 26 to June 22, which ranked third in the AL behind Masahiro Tanaka (2.09) and Felix Hernandez (2.33).
Hughes also has enjoyed considerable success in the hitter-friendly Safeco Field. He entered with a 4-0 record and 0.82 ERA over 22 innings. He lowered that to 0.61, offering eight hits, no walks and striking out eight.
Hughes, 27, showed pinpoint fastball command, which allowed him to work ahead of hitters. He threw 18 first-pitch strikes to the first 21 batters.
On the other end, Minnesota halted a span of 14.2 scoreless innings in this series when Sam Fuld connected on a 3-2 fastball to give the Twins a 1-0 lead with two out in the fifth.
Young said he didn’t regret the pitch, just falling behind Fuld to begin with. Fuld, including his second homer of the season, went 3-for-3.
“Falling behind was the mistake, the pitch wasn’t necessarily a mistake. Just challenging the number nine hitter with a 3-2 fastball,” Young said. “And then walking Escobar to start the eighth. Both runs cost us.”
The Twins inthe eighth put runners on first and third with no outs. McClendon called in Yoervis Medina to work out of the jam. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Brian Dozier was all the Twins generated. It was more than enough.
Young pitched seven innings, allowed two runs on six hits and walked one while striking out six.
“He was outstanding,” McClendon said. “Coming into spring training, like I said before, I didn’t know what to expect, but I couldn’t have expected this.”
Seattle was shut out for the 11th time this season and second time in three games . . . LHP James Paxton (shoulder inflammation) pitched a two-inning simulated game Tuesday afternoon. He threw 32 pitches featuring his full repertoire of pitches and came away “feeling really good.” Paxton will pitch a second simulated game Saturday . . . OF James Jones, who batted 2-for-4 Tuesday, is hitting .324 over his last seven games.