SEATTLE — Lloyd McClendon only wanted to heap praise on Minnesota’s Phil Hughes and in the process deflected concern about Seattle’s growing struggles at the plate.
The Seattle manager isn’t worried yet even though the Mariners’ offensive numbers over the past five games are ugly.
“I’m not going to sit here every night and say we are struggling and the next night say we are great,” McClendon said. “That was just a hell of a game. That’s the way it goes.”
Hughes pitched into the eighth inning, Sam Fuld barely cleared the wall with his second home run of the season and the Twins beat the Mariners 2-0 on Tuesday night.
Hughes rebounded from being knocked around in his previous two starts to shut down the Mariners. Hughes (9-5) gave up eight hits in 7 1-3 innings, struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter in silencing Seattle’s stagnant offense.
Seattle has scored six runs in the past five games and is 2 for 36 with runners in scoring position during that stretch. Three times Seattle got runners to second base against the Twins but they advanced no farther.
Hughes went to a three-ball count just once and Logan Morrison’s double in the fourth was the only extra base hit he allowed.
“We ran into a buzz saw tonight. He was pretty good,” McClendon said. “His fastball command was exceptional. In and out with his cutter, he sank it and elevated it.”
A night after Fuld could not pull back Michael Saunders’ home run, the roles were reversed. Fuld hit a 3-2 pitch from Seattle starter Chris Young (8-5) beyond the wall in right and just out of the reach of Saunders for the solo shot in the fifth inning. It was the first homer for Fuld since April 10. He finished with three hits and two stolen bases.
Young was nearly equal to Hughes, yet unable to get a third straight victory because Seattle provided no offensive help. Young gave up six hits and struck out six, but lost for the first time since June 11. He was lifted after giving up a walk to Eduardo Escobar and single to Fuld leading off the eighth to put runners at the corners with no outs.
Brian Dozier’s sacrifice fly off reliever Yoervis Medina scored Escobar to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead.
“I needed to keep that scoreless tonight, one at the most and give us a chance,” Young said.
Hughes had given up a combined 19 hits and 12 earned runs in his past two starts, losses to Texas and the Yankees. But he had a strong history pitching in Seattle, and is 5-0 with a 0.61 ERA in seven career games at Safeco Field.
Seattle tried to rally in the eighth after one out singles by Saunders and James Jones, and Robinson Cano coming to the plate. Hughes was lifted for reliever Casey Fien, who got Cano to ground into a double play to end the threat.
As he sat on the bench, Hughes said he couldn’t help but imagine Cano — his former teammate in New York — hitting a three-run homer and ruining his outing.
“Frustration was setting in more than anything … and then I had visions in my head of Cano hitting a three-run homer. I’ve seen it too many times,” Hughes said. “Fortunately (Fien) got him to roll over into a big double play ball there.”
Minnesota is 2-11 in its last 13 road games. … Seattle LHP James Paxton (back) threw a 33-pitch simulated game Tuesday and is expected to throw another this weekend before deciding if he’s ready for a rehab assignment in the minors. … Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has not decided on his starter for Friday in Colorado after RHP Ricky Nolasco was placed on the 15-day DL on Tuesday. … Seattle 3B Kyle Seager snapped a 0-for-18 skid with a single in the sixth inning.