The wild-pitch offense worked wonders for the offensively starved Twins on Saturday. But when it was time to win the game, Kurt Suzuki was Kurt Clutch once again.
His walk-off RBI single scored Eddie Rosario and lifted the Twins to a 3-2 win over Seattle, capping a nutty ninth inning during which Mariners closer Carson Smith uncorked two wild pitches and Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon was ejected.
Hey, the Mariners gave this one away, as the Twins’ first two runs were scored on wild pitches. But the Twins, ahead by one game over Baltimore for the final wild-card spot, will take them any way they can while they sort out their offense. Before the ninth inning, the Twins had scored one run over their previous 18 innings and were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
“We needed the win,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We’re kind of finding out that they are getting a little tougher. You kind of find a way to stay with the game, and tonight we were rewarded at the end.”
Trailing 2-1 in the ninth, Miguel Sano led off with a double and was replaced by pinch runner Shane Robinson. Trevor Plouffe struck out, but Smith’s first pitch to Torii Hunter nearly took his head off as it sailed to the backstop. Robinson moved to third. Hunter tapped out to the mound, leaving the Twins down to their last out.
Seattle elected to walk Rosario intentionally — putting the winning run on first — so Smith could face the struggling Suzuki, who is batting .234.
“I wasn’t worried about him [Rosario on base],” Smith said. “I was just trying to get the next guy out. I’m more worried about the guy on third.”
Well, Smith threw another slider away while facing Suzuki, allowing Robinson to score the tying run as Rosario went to second.
Suzuki checked his swing on a 1-1 pitch, which was backed up by first-base umpire Mike Muchlinski. McClendon disagreed with the call and was tossed. But he then walked over to Muchlinski to jaw some more before leaving the field. Replays showed that Suzuki might have gone around.
Play resumed, and Rosario stole third on the next pitch.
Two outs. Ninth inning. Steals third.
“It’s not a normal situation to steal third with two outs,” Molitor said, “but given the situation and the heightened intensity of that inning, they weren’t particularly paying a lot of attention to him. And you don’t want to get thrown out there, the potential winning run, but he had thrown a couple wild pitches. It might change what he does if he got over there.”
The game is over if Smith bounced another slider. So Suzuki saw a fastball and bounced a game-winning single to left.
“He didn’t want to throw another one to the backstop and lose the game on a wild pitch,” Suzuki said. “I figured he would challenge me.”
The Twins were shut down by Seattle lefthander Mike Montgomery for six innings, scoring one run when Trevor Plouffe raced home on a wild pitch in the fourth. But Twins righthander Kyle Gibson kept them within range by holding Seattle to two runs over seven innings, including a home run by Nelson Cruz in the sixth.
Gibson had runners on second and third with no outs in the seventh but escaped unharmed. The Twins needed a break at that point, and got a couple of them.
“We’re pretty excited about the win,” Gibson said. “That was a big one.’’