The Twins (69-53) have won 14 of 20 overall to move into a tie for the AL Central lead with the Chicago White Sox, but they have not done it with power. Minnesota has 87 homers - second-worst in the AL - but it leads the majors with 52 sacrifice flies and a .317 batting average with runners in scoring position.
That 52nd sacrifice fly proved to be a game-winner Saturday, when Joe Mauer raced home on a flyout by Brian Buscher in the bottom of the ninth for a 7-6 victory that kept the Twins tied for the division lead.
“Doing the little things like to win ballgames, that all adds up,” said Mauer, who also homered and finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored.
Mauer is hitting .371 (13-for-35) with seven RBIs during a nine-game hitting streak. He’s hit .435 (47-for-108) with three homers, 19 RBIs and a .534 on-base percentage in 29 lifetime games versus Seattle.
The Twins now try to complete the sweep of this series by beating Ryan Feierabend, who will be recalled from Triple-A Tacoma prior to the game and begin his bid to be in the 2009 rotation for the Mariners. The 22-year-old right-hander went 7-1 with a 2.04 ERA in 13 starts for the Rainiers, giving up 17 earned runs in 75 innings and striking out 48.
Feierabend made his major league debut in 2006 and struggled with the Mariners (46-76) last year, going 1-6 with an 8.03 ERA in nine starts and 13 overall appearances - giving up 73 hits in 49 1-3 innings. He’ll be making his first appearance versus Minnesota.
The Twins go for a fourth straight victory as they turn to Glen Perkins (9-3, 4.07 ERA), who has won his last two decisions and seven of eight. The left-hander turned in his best outing of the season - one day after his wife gave birth to the couple’s second daughter - against the New York Yankees on Monday, scattering four hits and three walks in eight innings of a 4-0 victory.
“It’s a great feeling,” Perkins said. “I always pitch for my family. That’s why I’m playing, to help support them.
“You’re tired and you’re all those things, but to be able to do that a day after having a baby is really special. You get a little bit extra when you’re in a situation like that.”
Perkins struggled in his first career start against the Mariners nearly two weeks ago, failing to protect a six-run lead and leaving without a decision Aug. 4 after yielding five runs and 12 hits in 6 1-3 innings of Minnesota’s 11-6 defeat.
The Mariners are hoping Feierabend can provide any sort of positive momentum to their beleaguered pitching staff, which has allowed 10 or more hits in seven straight games while going 1-6 with a 6.85 ERA.