MINNEAPOLIS — Matt Capps worked a scoreless ninth inning for a save in his first appearance with the Minnesota Twins, preserving a 5-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.
Capps, acquired from the Washington Nationals the previous night, gave up a two-out single to Chone Figgins before striking out Casey Kotchman, ending the game with a pump of his fist. Of 94 career saves by Capps, he has 11 against AL teams.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire played with his enhanced bullpen like a shiny new toy, effectively using Jesse Crain and Jose Mijares for two outs each and Matt Guerrier for four outs before turning to Capps for the ninth. The right-hander drew a loud cheer when he jogged to the mound while “The Final Countdown” by ballad band Europe blared over the speakers.
Jim Thome and Alexi Casilla homered in support of Scott Baker (9-9), who evened his record with some help from another last-place opponent the Twins have fattened up on lately. Franklin Gutierrez had two hits and an RBI for the Mariners, who lost their fifth straight and made two costly errors behind Doug Fister (3-7).
Fister fell in an early hole when, with two outs in the second inning, second baseman Chone Figgins didn’t field Michael Cuddyer’s right-at-him grounder cleanly. Figgins recovered, grabbed the ball and cocked his arm to throw, appearing to have time to get the out, but he inexplicably held it and pounded his glove in frustration.
On the next pitch, Thome hit a high fly that carried far enough to reach the left-field seats for his 577th homer, giving the Twins a 2-0 lead. That gave Thome 1,598 RBIs, pushing him past George Brett for sole possession of 32nd place.
Figgins, who has so far failed to play up to the $36 million contract he was given as a free agent last offseason, fell further from the organization’s grace a week ago by failing to fetch an errant relay throw and then throwing a tantrum and starting an intrasquad scuffle in the dugout after being told he was benched.
Third baseman Josh Wilson was the next culprit, bobbling a bouncer hit by Joe Mauer with two outs in the third that let J.J. Hardy score. Fister gave up five hits and one walk over five innings.
The Twins weren’t immune to sloppiness, when Denard Span — the speedy leadoff man whose baserunning mistakes have perplexed and frustrated the team this season — was picked off first base and caught in a rundown with Hardy at third. Casilla followed with his first homer since Sept. 18, 2008, a drive that hit the cement edge in front of the flowers along the facade in right-center field and bounced backward.
Casilla had to hold up at third when the ball was finally retrieved and returned, but the umpires used a replay review to correctly determine a home run and a 5-0 lead for the Twins.
Baker got a generous ovation from the sellout crowd when he was pulled with one out in the sixth after a two-run double by Wilson cut the lead to two, but this was another so-so start. He walked four and allowed seven hits, striking out two.