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Byron Buxton, Dylan Bundy lift Twins to 4-0 win, split season-opening series with Mariners

Ryan Divish Seattle Times

MINNEAPOLIS — The first four games of what often feels like an endless season of daily games and results certainly don’t offer defining or even predictive data for the months ahead.

But the current version of the Mariners’ lineup, which is better and deeper and should be capable of producing more offense than a year ago, has yet to truly offer an example of what it could be in the first series of the season that ended in a somewhat disappointing four-game split.

And in their latest defeat, Seattle’s showing at the plate was abysmal in a way that was reminiscent of the frustrating struggles early in 2021.

The Mariners mustered just two hits — a double from Eugenio Suarez and a single from J.P. Crawford — while being held scoreless by a combination of five Twins pitchers in a dismal 4-0 defeat Monday evening at Target Field.

“We started off the series on a high note, we just couldn’t keep it going,” manager Scott Servais said. “It’s not the worst thing in the world to come out of here with a split of the series. But when you win the first two the way we did, you’re hoping to get a little bit more and win the series.”

The Mariners will have short turnaround with an afternoon start Tuesday in the Chicago White Sox’s home opener at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Getting two hits in a game won’t win you many in Major League Baseball. Besides the two hits, Seattle had seven runners reach base, drawing three walks and reaching twice on errors.

Veteran right-hander Dylan Bundy used five different pitches to keep the Mariners off balance for five innings and earn his first win of the season.

“You don’t often get two fastballs in a row from him,” Servais said. “I think he only did that a couple times. He has a good feel with his curveball and dumps them in early. The second time through the lineup, he gets his good changeup going and goes to the slider enough to keep you off balance so you’re never really on the fastball.”

The Mariners only had three runners get into scoring position in the game. Suarez’s first hit of the season — a two-out double to left in the second inning — didn’t produce a run.

Their best opportunity came in the third inning. Julio Rodriguez worked a lead-off walk, stole second and advanced to third on Gary Sanchez’s throwing error on the play. But Bundy struck out Cal Raleigh, got Adam Frazier to pop out to shallow center and coaxed a weak fly ball to left from Ty France to end the inning with Rodriguez never scoring.

“In a game the way it was going tonight, every run is so valuable,” Servais said. “And when you don’t pick up those runs here or there, it hurts you at the end. We had a couple chances late, and we needed a big knock to get us back in it and we just weren’t able to get it done.”

In the first four games, the Mariners have a .177/.282/.292 slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) as a team — all three of which rank second to last in the American League.

It’s too early to panic. But the frustrations and failures of last season won’t soon be forgotten.

Seattle got a workable if not efficient outing from Chris Flexen in his first start of the season. The ever-intense right-hander pitched into the fifth inning, surrendering just one run in the first inning after issuing a leadoff walk to Byron Buxton, who later scored on Jorge Polanco’s one-out double.

He never made it out of the fifth. He gave up a leadoff single to Alex Kirilloff and another double to Buxton that put runners on second and third with no outs.

In his last batter faced, Flexen got Carlos Correa to hit a ground ball to shortstop Crawford, who immediately fired home to Raleigh. The play wasn’t close as Kirilloff was out by a few steps.

With Flexen at 91 pitches and the left-handed hitting Luis Arraez coming the plate and the switch-hitting Polanco on deck, Servais went to lefty Anthony Misiewicz.

The reliever had looked strong in his previous outing, pitching a scoreless inning with two strikeouts and 12 strikes in 16 pitches.

“I thought it was a good spot to bring Miz in,” Servais said. “He’s had a good breaking ball going lately, but they were on him tonight.”

Servais’ logical strategy didn’t work.

Misiewicz had no command of any of his pitches against the aggressive Twins’ hitters.

Arraez deposited a single into left field to score a run on a 1-1 cutter that never broke off the plate, and Polanco followed with ground-ball single on a first-pitch curveball that hung in the middle of the plate. Gio Urshela made it three-run scoring singles in a row, jumping on a first-pitch cutter with a line drive into right-center to make it 4-0.

“He left some balls in the middle of the plate, and they were very aggressive,” Servais said. “They took good swings on him.”

Two of the runs were charged to Flexen who finished with final line of 4 1/3 innings pitched, three runs allowed on five hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

“I was not very efficient,” Flexen said. “I wasn’t my best out there. I wasn’t very sharp.”

Misiewicz was charged with the other run, which is all the Twins needed with the Mariners not providing any sort of offense.

Erik Swanson, Sergio Romo and Andres Munoz gave the Mariners a scoreless inning each, but the offense provided only one more scoring threat. In the eighth inning, Jarred Kelenic worked a pinch-hit walk and Jesse Winker reached when Kirilloff dropped a fly ball in left field. But veteran Joe Smith, who pitched for the Mariners last season, struck out Mitch Haniger on a called check swing to end the inning.