MINNEAPOLIS – The formula for success seems so simple: Good starting pitching plus timely hitting with runners on base usually leads to victory on most occasions.
But the Mariners had been lacking in that hitting aspect – getting just one hit with runners in scoring position in their last 26 at-bats coming into Sunday’s series finale with the Minnesota Twins.
But it all changed on a brilliant spring day before a crowd of 32,511 at Target Field.
Felix Hernandez gave the Mariners a brilliant start and Seattle came up with a few hits with runners on base in taking a 6-2 victory over the Twins to snap a four-game losing streak.
Hernandez worked eight innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with a walk and five strikeouts to improve to 5-1 and lower his ERA to 2.94.
Seattle took the lead for good in the fifth inning. James Jones beat out an infield single, outhustling pitcher Ricky Nolasco to first base on his ground ball to first baseman Joe Mauer. Michael Saunders continued his torrid hitting, lacing a triple down the right-field line to score Jones from second to tie the game at 2-2. Saunders went 6 for 11 in the series with a double, triple, homer and four RBIs with three runs scored.
Robinson Cano, who went 4 for 5 to raise his average to .318, followed with a fly ball to center field that hit off the wall. The double scored Saunders and made the lead to 3-2. It was the second ball he hit off the wall in center for a double.
Saunders added a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Justin Smoak doubled home Stefen Romero in the seventh to push it to 5-2.
The Mariners tacked on one more run in the ninth. Cano came up with his fourth hit and later scored on a wild pitch.