Although bothered by a sore left wrist that ultimately forced him from the game, Nelson Cruz smashed two more long home runs Sunday and Jesus Sucre added a two-run jolt to lead the Mariners to a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins at the Target Center in Minneapolis (box). The win, however, did nothing to enhance Seattle’s dimming prospects of claiming the American League’s second wild card.
Baltimore’s 2-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Camden Yards enabled the Orioles (85-71) to maintain a 2.5-game advantage over the Mariners (82-73), who have seven games remaining on their schedule.
Toronto (86-69) retained control of the AL’s first wild card slot with a 4-3 victory over the fading Yankees. Detroit (83-72) fell to Kansas City 12-9, but remains a game up on the Mariners. Houston (82-74) defeated the Angels 4-1 to stay a half game back of Seattle. The Mariners and Astros begin a three-game set night Monday at Minute Maid Park. AL wild card standings after Sunday’s play:
With Seattle trailing 2-1 in the fifth (Cruz’s 40th homer gave Seattle its first run), Leonys Martin drew a walk from starter Hector Santiago. Sucre followed with his first home run of the season (second of his career), a two-run shot to left. Cruz’s second homer, another bomb to left leading off the sixth, provided an insurance run.
Cruz went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, topping the 40-homer mark for the second time with the Mariners. Cruz has 41 and increased his RBI total to 100. He left the game in the eighth for a pinch hitter due to a sore left wrist. Cruz, who hit four homers in the three-game series, has reached base in 20 consecutive contests against the Twins . . . Cruz is the fourth Mariner with multiple 40-homer seasons, joining Ken Griffey Jr. (6), Jay Buhner (3) and Alex Rodriguez (3) . . . Sucre produced Seattle’s only other multi-hit game, going 2-for-3. Sucre is an astonishing 10-for-15 since his recall from AAA Tacoma . . . The Mariners finished with six hits . . . The Mariners are 0-for-their-last -4 with runners in scoring position, 0-for-8 Saturday, 0-for-6 Sunday.
Taijuan Walker (7-11, 4.35) allowed three runs on nine hits over 5.1 innings with seven strikeouts and two walks. He departed with a 4-3 lead after throwing 96 pitches, 60 for strikes, including a home run to Max Kepler in the second inning . . . Nick Vincent and Steve Cishek collaborated for 2.2 innings of scoreless relief and Edwin Diaz notched his 17th save in 19 chances with a 1-2-3 ninth.
“Sucre has been huge. He doesn’t try to do too much, just get the bat on the ball. That was another outstanding series by Cruz. Unfortunately, he came out of the game with a twinge in his wrist.” — Mariners manager Scott Servais
“The players are having fun. We need help, we know that, and now we have to go to Houston and win a series” — Servais, on the wild card race
“I really feel pretty good right now. I was trying to see anything (pitch) inside and Hector (Santiago) put it right there and I just tried to put a good swing on it. It’s fun. We are trying to make it to the playoffs and we’re going to keep pushing.” — Sucre
The Mariners took two of the three games and finished the season series with Minnesota 2-4 . . . The Mariners, who have won 12 of their past 17, improved to 25-18-8 in overall series and to 16-18 against the AL Central . . . Mariners have 35 comeback wins and are 28-28 in one-run games . . . The first inning of Sunday’s game was delayed after home-plate umpire Jerry Layne was struck in the face mask and left shoulder by a foul tip from Robinson Cano. Layne left the game and was replaced by Hunter Wendelstedt, who moved from second base to behind the plate.
The Mariners begin a three-game set at Houston Monday night (5:10 p.m., PT) at Minute Maid Park. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (16-12, 4.04) will pitch for Seattle opposite RHP Collin McHugh (12-10, 4.61). After the Houston series, the Mariners return to Safeco Field Thursday night for the final four games of the regular season against Oakland.