For a moment — as Brian Dozier’s game-tying, ninth-inning home run sailed over the left-field fence at Target Field — an anemic offense that plagued the Twins on Sunday seemed to come alive.
It didn’t matter that the home run was only the Twins’ second hit against Seattle, or that it was the team’s eighth hit over three games spanning 85 at-bats.
But the moment didn’t last. The Twins couldn’t push across the winning run in the ninth or 10th inning, and the Twins bullpen — which already saw Glen Perkins give up his fourth homer in his past four appearances in the top of the ninth — collapsed in the 11th, as the Mariners scored three times for a 4-1 victory before an announced crowd of 30,325.
“The offensive struggles continued a little bit today,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said after his team fell to 5-10 since the All-Star break and completed a 3-6 homestand. “… Guys are trying really hard to create things. I don’t know how many balls we pulled for outs today, but it seemed significant to me. We didn’t use the whole field, which you need to do on a guy like [Hisashi Iwakuma].
“We just kind of did what he wanted us to do and that was keep trying to get pull-conscious. It wasn’t a very good formula for us.”
Mike Pelfrey pitched eight shutout innings, giving up four hits, but he was matched by Seattle’s Iwakuma, who had never given up an earned run to the Twins in any of his five career starts against them. Iwakuma’s streak of zeros against the Twins ended at 42 innings with Dozier’s homer.
“Mike pitched great, and he gave us every opportunity,” Molitor said. “We just couldn’t give him any run support. [Dozier] gave us some life, and we tried to get our way through extra innings until we could score, [but] it never happened. We were never able to put the rally together.”
Newly acquired reliever Kevin Jepsen made his Twins debut to start the 11th, but it didn’t go well. Ketel Marte led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Jepsen then walked Kyle Seager as well. He struck out the hot-hitting Nelson Cruz before Molitor replaced Jepsen with lefthander Brian Duensing.
Logan Morrison crushed the first pitch he saw from Duensing for a double to right field, scoring Marte with the go-ahead run. Austin Jackson later added a two-run single to score Seager and Morrison.
“It was just struggling the strike zone to start off with,” Jepsen said. “Any time you walk the leadoff hitter, you’re putting yourself in a bad situation, especially with the top of the lineup coming up.”
And especially on a day when his team again struggled to get baserunners. Iwakuma gave up a two-out, third-inning double to Eduardo Escobar, but that was the Twins’ only hit before Dozier’s homer — two days after they managed only one hit against Taijuan Walker.
Dozier’s latest late-inning homer wasn’t enough for back-to-back walk-off victories, though. That’s because Perkins, continuing what has been his roughest stretch of the season, gave up a go-ahead homer to Cruz on a 3-0 pitch with two out and nobody on in the top of the inning.
In six outings since he recorded the final three outs in the All-Star Game, Perkins is 0-2 with two blown saves and an 11.12 ERA.
Molitor said if Robinson Cano wasn’t on deck, the Twins might have walked Cruz, who has hit eight homers over his current 13-game hitting streak, including one in each of the final three games of this series.
“But I thought that maybe we could entice him to expand a little bit, maybe get lucky and get an out there,” Molitor said. “I’m sure that [Perkins] didn’t want to throw it where he threw it.”