MINNEAPOLIS – The scenario to at least send it to extra innings was all set up for the Mariners on Friday night.
Down by a run in the top of the ninth inning, Michael Saunders led off the inning with a sharp single to left field off Twins closer Glenn Perkins.
With Robinson Cano at the plate, Saunders hustled to second on a wild pitch in the dirt.
That meant the Mariners had the tying run in scoring position with no outs and Cano, Corey Hart and Justin Smoak all getting a chance to drive it in.
But Saunders never crossed home plate and the Mariners lost 5-4 at Target Field, falling below the .500 mark once again at 20-21.
How could they not score that run?
Cano, who had two hits in the game, didn’t get a hit but did provide a productive out, moving Saunders to third with a broken-bat ground ball to second base.
It set up Hart, the cleanup hitter, to tie the score. He popped out to first baseman Joe Mauer.
“I saw a slider up and it was something I thought I could at least hit in the air,” Hart said. “I just got under it. It’s one of the situations you want to be in. It’s tough when you don’t get it done.”
That left it up to Smoak with two outs. He came into the game leading the majors with 19 two-out RBIs. He wouldn’t get the 20th. Perkins got Smoak to hit a soft comebacker to the left of the mound, which he fielded and fired to first to end the game.
The scenario was set up perfectly, but the run never scored.
“I will take that situation, but I’d rather have better results,” manager Lloyd McClendon said.
The Mariners had few results against Twins starter Kyle Gibson, who pitched seven innings, giving up one run on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts. The rookie right-hander came into the game with a 3-3 record and a 3.74 ERA, but shut down the Mariners.
Or was it the Mariners’ hitters shutting themselves down?
“I’m not sure,” McClendon said. “You’ll probably have to ask our players. To be honest with you, I didn’t see anything special.”
The lone run that Gibson allowed came in the fifth inning with Seattle down 3-0. Saunders drew a two-out walk and Cano ripped a deep fly ball to left-center. The ball bounced off the top of the wall, just missing a homer by inches. Cano settled for a double and Saunders scored from first.
Once Gibson left, Seattle got going against the Minnesota bullpen.
Trailing 5-1, Seattle scored three runs in the top of the eighth. Dustin Ackley laced a triple into the gap in right-center off Caleb Thielbar, scoring Smoak and Kyle Seager. Ackley scored on Mike Zunino’s deep sacrifice fly to center to make it 5-4.
The Mariners got a so-so start from right-hander Chris Young.
“It wasn’t my best,” he said. “When I made a mistake, they hit it. And when I felt like I made a good pitch, they hit it. Some nights you run into a hot team and you tip your hat.”
Young gave up 10 hits, including five doubles and two homers, and did not have a strikeout. The seven extra-base hits were one shy of a club record set by Freddy Garcia in April 2000 against Toronto.
“I wish I could have kept them at three because we would have won the game,” he said.