SEATTLE – All hail the new king.
Yep, just as the hundreds of K-card-waving, gold-shirt-wearing Mariners fans in King’s Court had hoped, Friday’s pitching duel was a mismatch. But the Twins might need to print up some “P” cards.
Pat Dean limited the Mariners to four hits over seven innings at Safeco Field, gave up only two runs to one of baseball’s hottest lineups, and struck out eight batters — or two more than Felix Hernandez whiffed to the cheers of his loyal fans. The Twins clubbed King Felix with a five-run inning, tagged him with the most runs they’ve ever scored off him in more than a decade of meetings, and walked off with their second straight victory, 7-2 at Safeco Field.
The Twins celebrated their fifth road win of the year, and the first of Dean’s career, with a postgame beer-and-barbecue-sauce shower for the rookie.
“It didn’t taste too good,” Dean laughed, “but it was all worth it.”
Maybe barbecue sauce was appropriate, because surely the Twins had offered up Dean, a soft-tossing lefthander making his second career start, as an easy meal for King Felix, right?
The Twins, after all, had scored a total of five runs in their past five meetings with King Felix, and the Mariners are on a tear, having won six of their last seven.
But Dean, whose fastball averaged 89 mph, was unperturbed by the loud crowd of 40,921, retiring the final 11 batters he faced on a night he’ll talk about the rest of his life. He surrendered a first-inning home run to Franklin Gutierrez that the throngs sensed would trigger a rout. But Dean responded with seven straight outs, all while his teammates ganged up on one of their most persistent scourges.
“He stayed calm. It was pretty amazing. But that’s kind of his demeanor, laid-back,” said catcher Kurt Suzuki. “He pitched his butt off tonight. He outpitched Felix.”
Miguel Sano got the revolution started in the second inning with a 400-foot home run into the bullpen party area in center field, turning 40,000 cheers for a strikeout into one loud “Whooooa.” An inning later, the first five Twins to face Hernandez reached base, four of them with hits. A double by Brian Dozer put the Twins in front, a single by Joe Mauer make it a two-run gap, and after Sano walked and Trevor Plouffe flew out, Robbie Grossman laced a double down the right-field line that wedged itself under the padding for a ground-rule double.
Then Byung Ho Park added the inning’s fifth run — or one more than the Twins had collected off King Felix in his past 51 innings against them — with a bizarre play. Park hit a dribbler in front of the plate that bounced off his left foot, which should have made it a foul ball. But umpire Mark Wegner didn’t see the contact, and Sano slid home while Park stood at the plate. He was tagged out, but Sano’s run counted, since neither team challenged the call.
Handed an unexpected 6-1 lead, Dean knew what to do with it: Throw strikes. The rookie, 27, struck out the side in the bottom of the inning, and surrendered one more run all night, on a Robinson Cano triple — a play that might have been a fly out, but center fielder Danny Santana missed the play as Sano lumbered past — followed by Dae-Ho Lee’s broken-bat single.
Ryan Pressly pitched a scoreless eighth and Brandon Kintzler finished the victory in the ninth, giving the Twins just their fourth winning streak of two games or more this season.
• Plouffe left Friday’s game in the fourth inning after suffering a mild sprain of the MCL ligament in his right knee, the Twins said. He’ll have an MRI on Saturday.
• Kyle Gibson, making his second rehab start for the Class A Fort Myers Miracle, allowed six hits and one run over five innings against the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
Best of all, Gibson, out since April 22 with a strained right shoulder, threw 52 strikes among his 72 pitches, didn’t walk anybody and struck out six, displaying the command the Twins have sought. General Manager Terry Ryan attended the game, and “if Terry is satisfied with what he saw,” said Ryan’s top assistant, Rob Antony, “there’s a good chance he could return and make his next start in the big leagues.”