Mariners 5, Twins 2
The Minnesota Twins are not accustomed to this type of losing.
The Twins lost their ninth consecutive game, 5-2 to the Seattle Mariners on Monday night, the franchise's longest skid since Sept. 9-19, 1998. They have also not been 15 games under .500 - as they are now at 12-27 - since the end of the 2000 season.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire acknowledged things are ''pretty desperate'' in the dugout.
''Guys are battling and they are frustrated, which is good because they care,'' Gardenhire said. ''I like to hear a little screaming and stuff. That's good we did that tonight. Some of the players were pretty fired up. So, good. Maybe that carries over and we start to get rolling here offensively.''
Michael Pineda, the Mariners' 22-year-old right-hander, allowed three hits over seven innings to help the Mariners break their six-game losing streak.
Pineda (5-2), the American League's rookie of the month for April, struck out seven and walked none. He lowered his ERA to 2.45 and went to a three-ball count on just two of the 26 batters he faced.
Pineda, who threw 70 strikes in his 99 pitches, entered with the highest percentage of strikes thrown (70.3) among AL pitchers and highest percentage of first-pitch strikes (73.7). He had 18 first-pitch strikes.
Adam Kennedy and Carlos Peguero hit consecutive home runs in the sixth inning. It was the first time Seattle had back-to-back homers since Aug. 16, 2010, when Russell Branyan and Jose Lopez connected at Baltimore.
Kennedy had two hits and two RBIs, the second of which drove in Brendan Ryan from third in the eighth inning with a sacrifice fly.
It was the seventh time in 39 games the Twins have been held to four hits or fewer.
''The bottom line is we are not scoring enough runs,'' Gardenhire said. ''It gets very frustrating. Our pitchers give up very little really, like (Scott Baker) allowed only a couple runs early in the game all the way through five, six innings and you feel pretty desperate. You shouldn't feel like that.''
Just their misfortune, however, is Tuesday's opposing pitcher will be Felix Hernandez (4-3), last season's Cy Young Award winner.
Pineda looked like a Hernandez clone. He had only one uneven inning and that was set up by his team's unsteady defense.
With two outs and the Mariners up 2-0 in the sixth, the Twins caught a break when Luis Rodriguez's high throw brought Justin Smoak off the first-base bag and Trevor Plouffe reached. Kubel singled to center and Justin Morneau was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Pineda had briefly lost his form, but knew how to fix it.
''I threw a couple pitches and opened my left shoulder,'' he said. ''I made an adjustment on the mound, closed my left shoulder and threw the ball down.
''When I get into trouble, I try to slow things down, stay calm and keep my pitches down.''
Focusing on catcher Miguel Olivo's glove, he threw a hard slider, down and away, to Michael Cuddyer. He hit it hard, caroming off Pineda's thigh and right to second baseman Kennedy. He flipped to second for the force and the threat was denied.
''He's well-composed. He's a competitor,'' manager Eric Wedge said. ''He has a great feel for a young pitcher in regards to situations.''
Gardenhire added: ''I'd say his 94-96 mph fastball and filthy slider makes you jump at the ball a little bit. And he shut us down pretty hard.''
Baker (2-3) went six innings, allowing seven hits and four runs. He walked two and struck out eight.
The Mariners jumped him with a two-out run in the first. Chone Figgins reached on a one-out infield single. Smoak struck out then Jack Cust bounced a double off the right-field wall. Figgins rolled around the bases and scored standing up.
They added a third-inning run in similar fashion. With Ichiro Suzuki on first with one out, Smoak lined a double into the right-field corner. Suzuki raced around and scored without a throw.
Baker said the losing streak and the struggling offense ''magnifies everything, but tonight that guy (Pineda) was pretty good. It had more to do with him throwing the ball well than our guys struggling.
''It was still a little frustrating because I felt like I beat myself, instead of them beating me.''
The Twins scored their two runs in the ninth primarily because of Mariners miscues.
Kubel reached on an error by Kennedy. With one out, Cuddyer singled, sending Kubel to third. Delmon Young followed with a potential double-play grounder to third baseman Figgins, but his throw to second sailed into right field, scoring Kubel. Cuddyer then scored on Danny Valencia's groundout.
Notes: Twins C Joe Mauer, who hasn't played since April 12 because of leg, knee and shoulder issues, finally will begin a rehab assignment Wednesday at Class-A Fort Myers. There is no timetable for his return. ... Morneau, bothered by neck and shoulder soreness, stayed behind in Minneapolis on Sunday to be examined. He flew to Seattle on Monday, arrived 1 1/2 hours before game time and was in the starting lineup. ... Mariners RHP Shawn Kelley, coming back from elbow tendon transplant surgery, has been sent out on his rehab assignment to Double-A Jackson. CF Franklin Gutierrez, on a rehab assignment, could be back with the team as early as next week. He has missed all season with irritable bowel syndrome. ... Smoak left the game for a pinch-runner in the eighth after he tweaked his right ankle.