MINNEAPOLIS — These young Seattle Mariners have taken more than their share of lumps over the last three seasons, getting beaten down by more experienced, better-equipped teams in the powerful American League.
As they prepare to enter the final month of manager Eric Wedge’s third year on the job, the Mariners are finally starting to give their fans some reason for optimism.
Blake Beavan gave up two runs in seven innings and Trayvon Robinson drove in two runs to lift Seattle to a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.
Beavan (9-8) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out one, shrugging off a shaky first inning.
Kyle Seager also drove in two runs for the Mariners, who have won 11 of their last 15 games and posted back-to-back winning months for the first time since 2009.
“They’ve gained a great deal of experience this year,” Wedge said. “We’ve had a lot of tough games, a lot of tight games, very similar to today. Their heartbeat’s a lot better. They’re much more experienced and they’re doing a lot better job in step-up opportunities.”
Brian Duensing (3-10) gave up three earned runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings. He left after loading the bases in the sixth, and left fielder Josh Willingham’s blunder contributed to Seattle’s four-run inning.
Willingham’s two-run homer in the eighth off Stephen Pryor made things interesting, but Tom Wilhelmsen picked up his 21st save to help the Mariners take three of four in the series.
The Twins had the tying run on third base after pinch runner Darin Mastroianni stole two bases, but a shaky Wilhelmsen got Ben Revere to ground out to preserve a well-deserved win for Beavan.
Beavan wasn’t overpowering, but he mixed his pitches and changed speeds just enough to keep the Twins off balance one night after they erupted for 10 runs. After giving up two runs in the first inning, Beavan retired 14 of his last 15 hitters.
“We just took the momentum and ran with it,” Beavan said.
The Mariners loaded the bases to start the sixth and Duensing left after giving up a sacrifice fly to Seager that tied it. Willingham then dropped an easy fly ball by Jesus Montero to score another run and make it 3-2. Robinson added a two-run single.
“We’ve got each other’s back from the first inning to the last inning,” Robinson said. “It’s kind of like a snowball. Once somebody does it, everybody does it.”
The Mariners were 16 games under .500 on July 15, a lackluster start that ultimately led the organization to decide to part ways with longtime icon Ichiro Suzuki in a trade with the Yankees. But they have quietly been playing some of the best baseball in the AL over the last month.
They had a seven-game win streak to close July and an eight-gamer earlier this month to start climbing back up to respectability. And after a three-game sweep by the White Sox in Chicago, the Mariners bounced back with three wins in Minnesota before heading home for a September filled with games against AL West opponents, and plenty of chances to show everyone that they’re not the same team that has been kicked around for the last three years.
“Everybody’s just kind of feeding off each other,” Beavan said. “Everybody wants to get better and is willing to put in the extra effort and the work. … You’re starting to see that. Guys are buying into that way of playing.