MINNEAPOLIS — These young Seattle Mariners have taken their share of lumps over the past two seasons, getting beaten down by more experienced teams in the powerful American League.
As they prepare to enter the final month of manager Eric Wedge’s second year on the job, the Mariners are starting to give their fans reason for optimism.
Blake Beavan gave up two runs in seven innings and Trayvon Robinson drove in two runs to lift Seattle to a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.
Beavan (9-8) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out one, shrugging off a shaky first inning.
Kyle Seager also drove in two runs for the Mariners, who have won 11 of their past 15 games and posted back-to-back winning months for the first time since 2009. They were 15-11 in July and are 15-11 in August with one game left to play.
“They’ve gained a great deal of experience this year,” Wedge said. “We’ve had a lot of tough games, a lot of tight games, very similar to today. Their heartbeat’s a lot better. They’re much more experienced and they’re doing a lot better job in step-up opportunities.”
Minnesota starter Brian Duensing (3-10) gave up three earned runs and four hits in 51⁄3 innings. The Mariners loaded the bases to start the sixth and Duensing left after giving up a sacrifice fly to Seager that tied the game. Twins left fielder Josh Willingham then dropped a routine fly ball off the bat of Jesus Montero allowing another run to score and making it 3-2. After Justin Smoak struck out and pinch-hitter John Jaso walked, Robinson delivered a two-run single.
“We’ve got each other’s back from the first inning to the last inning,” Robinson said. “It’s kind of like a snowball. Once somebody does it, everybody does it.”
Willingham’s two-run homer in the eighth off Stephen Pryor made things interesting, but Tom Wilhelmsen picked up his 21st save to help the Mariners take three of four in the series.
The Twins had the tying run on third base in the ninth after pinch runner Darin Mastroianni stole two bases, but a shaky Wilhelmsen got Ben Revere to ground out to preserve a well-deserved win for Beavan.
Beavan wasn’t overpowering, but he mixed up his pitches and changed speeds just enough to keep the Twins off balance one night after they scored 10 runs. After giving up two runs in the first inning, Beavan retired 14 of the last 15 hitters he faced.
“We just took the momentum and ran with it,” Beavan said.
The Mariners were 16 games under .500 on July 15, a lackluster start that ultimately led the organization to decide to part ways with longtime icon Ichiro Suzuki in a trade with the Yankees. But they have quietly been playing some of the best baseball in the American League over the last month.
They had a seven-game win streak to close July and an eight-gamer earlier this month to start climbing back up to respectability. And after a three-game sweep by the White Sox in Chicago, the Mariners bounced back with three wins in Minnesota before heading home for a September filled with games against AL West opponents — and plenty of chances to show everyone that they’re not the same team that has been kicked around for the past three years.
“Everybody’s just kind of feeding off each other,” Beavan said. “Everybody wants to get better and is willing to put in the extra effort and the work. … You’re starting to see that. Guys are buying into that way of playing.”