Minnesota (25-33) at Seattle (28-33)

Fair Currently: Seattle, WA
Temp: 40° F
  • Game info: 4:35 pm EDT Thu Jun 8, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

If the Seattle Mariners want to earn a sweep of the Minnesota Twins, they’ll have to solve ace Johan Santana—a task they have found to be nearly impossible.

The Mariners (28-33) try to beat Santana for the first time in nearly four years when they play the finale of a three-game set with the Twins (25-33) on Thursday at Safeco Field.

Seattle earned the series victory in dramatic fashion Wednesday night, as Carl Everett hit his second walkoff homer of the season in the 11th inning for a 10-9 win. The Mariners have won six of their last seven games, recording 10 or more hits in five of those contests.

“I haven’t been swinging the bat well,” Everett said. “To come through with the clutch hit was a little uplifting.”

Seattle hasn’t swept the Twins since taking four games in Minnesota from May 29-June 1, 2003.

Seattle right fielder Ichiro Suzuki went 4-for-6 in Wednesday’s win, including a homer, and is batting .568 (21-for-37) during an eight-game hitting streak. Raul Ibanez had a three-run homer and Yuniesky Betancourt had a career-high four hits and two RBIs for the Mariners, who hit a season-high five homers in the game.

Following up that display of power, however, may be difficult against Santana (5-4, 3.24 ERA).

The only time the Mariners have ever beaten Santana came in a relief appearance on Sept. 2, 2002. He has gone 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA in six starts against them, striking out 37 in 40 innings.

Two of those starts have come in 2006, and the left-hander has held Seattle to four runs, 14 hits and one walk while striking out 14 over 14 innings. He won 5-1 on May 2 and didn’t get the decision in Seattle’s 4-3, 10-inning victory May 28.

Along with his history against Seattle, Santana is coming off his best performance of the season. The 2004 AL Cy Young Award winner pitched eight dominant innings in a 2-1 win over Oakland on Friday, allowing one run and two hits while walking none and striking out nine.

Santana retired the final 19 batters he faced to earn his first win in four starts.

“It was a good night,” Santana said. “We were able to battle through it and stay in the game. I was hoping somebody would hit a good ball. That’s the way I do it: I try to stay consistent.”

The Twins have counted on their ace’s consistency all season, as he has lasted at least seven innings in his last nine starts and has not given up more than four earned runs in any of his 12 outings. Santana leads the AL with 89 strikeouts and has walked only 15. Opponents are batting .232 against him.

Santana will try to help the Twins finish a rough 10-game road trip with a victory. Minnesota has dropped four in a row, one shy of matching a season high, and is 2-7 on the trip.

Minnesota had 17 hits Wednesday, including four from Lew Ford, while Michael Cuddyer had a career high-tying five RBIs and pulled the Twins even with a grand slam in the eighth inning.

Joe Mauer had two hits, giving him a hit in 34 of 39 games. He’s batting .403 in that stretch.

Joel Pineiro (5-5, 4.76) will try to prevent a repeat performance by the Twins lineup as he looks to win his second consecutive start. The right-hander won for the first time in five starts, allowing one run and seven hits in seven innings of a 12-1 victory over Kansas City on Saturday.

Pineiro is 2-4 with a 4.06 ERA in 12 starts against Minnesota, but has fared much better this season. He is 1-0 with a 2.87 ERA in two outings and pitched a complete game for an 8-2 victory May 1.

Pineiro opposed Santana on May 28, allowing three runs and nine hits over 6 2-3 innings.

Seattle is 5-1 on its seven-game homestand and has won 10 of its last 13 at Safeco.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Santana Tor vs. J. Pineiro LAA
19-6 Record 8-13
2.77 ERA 6.36
245 K 87
47 BB 64
1.00 WHIP 1.65