Twins 7, Mariners 3

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SEATTLE (AP)—Torii Hunter was laughing, even cackling about how good Twins teammate Joe Mauer was Thursday. How great he’s been this week. How great he will be.

“Ain’t nobody in the league better than Joe Mauer,” said Hunter, who has played parts of 10 seasons with Minnesota.

“It’s just sick.”

Mauer had three hits and reached base four times in Minnesota’s 7-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners, finishing off an extraordinary road trip.

One day after reaching base five times, Mauer doubled twice and singled. The Mariners had seen enough of him by the fourth inning—they intentionally walked him. He finally flied out in the eighth.

Mauer was 9-for-12 and reached base 13 times in 15 plate appearances during the three-game series. He drove in four runs, scored four times, had three walks and reached once on an error. In three days, he raised his batting average from .354 to .379, tops in the major leagues.

“You don’t get the opportunity to see guys swing this hot a bat very often,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “So you’ve got to enjoy it while you can.”

Mauer left Hunter shaking his head.

“I’m telling you, I’ve never seen a guy go through a hot streak like this,” Hunter said. “The man gets three, four hits a day.

“And he’s 23, man. It’s not like he’s 33.”

Mauer’s reaction? A Minnesota-bred aw shucks.

“I always wanted to get to the big leagues,” said Mauer, the first overall pick in the 2001 draft. “I’m just trying to stay up here for a while.”

Twins ace Johan Santana surviving a rocky beginning to help Minnesota end its otherwise miserable road trip 3-7. The Twins improved to 10-24 on the road. They return home Friday, where they are 16-9.

Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, the major league leader with 96 hits and second to Mauer in average, had three more singles, finished the series 11-for-15—and was overshadowed. He finished the Mariners’ 5-2 homestand 19-for-33 (.576).

Suzuki is batting .362 overall. He was at .177 on April 17.

“I mean, he’s pretty good,” Santana deadpanned. “You just try to put it over the plate and make him get himself out. Or whatever.”

Or, as Hunter said, pointing at Mauer, “You think Ichiro is amazing? He is amazing. But this guy here is ‘Big Ichiro.’

“He can do it all. He can steal a base. He throws guys out.”

Santana (6-4) allowed six baserunners in the first three innings, far off his two-hit, one-run gem over eight innings in Oakland on June 2. But he limited the Mariners to Raul Ibanez’s RBI single in the first inning.

From there, Seattle’s Willie Bloomquist said Santana’s changeup “was Bugs Bunny-esque. It would stop in mid air and jump up on you.”

Santana allowed five hits and walked one in five innings.

“It was kind of a wild game to pitch,” he said. “I was trying to establish the strike zone (all day).”

Mauer hit an RBI single off Joel Pineiro to give the Twins a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

“Changeup. Slider. Everything, he hit,” Pineiro said of Mauer, who is 11-for-15 in his career against the Seattle right-hander.

Seattle tied it in the bottom half but Juan Castro hit an RBI double in the second to give Minnesota the lead for good.

The Twins then pounced on Pineiro’s wildness in a three-run fourth. Pineiro walked Nick Punto on five pitches with the bases loaded to make it 3-1. Lew Ford then doubled in two runs.

Pineiro (5-6) allowed nine hits and six earned runs in 5 1-3 innings. He struck out two and walked a season-high six.

Minnesota’s only downer was reliever Matt Guerrier fracturing the base of his right thumb. Richie Sexson lined a pitch off Guerrier’s hand after he relieved Santana. The Twins got the out, but Guerrier left the game with a trainer, replaced by Willie Eyre.

Gardenhire said Guerrier, who had been pitching his way into more meaningful setup roles, will be out for an extended time. The Twins likely will place Guerrier on the disabled list Friday.

Notes

Eyre struck out the side in the seventh and had five strikeouts in 2 2-3 innings. … Santana is 6-1 in 14 career games against Seattle. … Mariners manager Mike Hargrove did not start C Kenji Johjima on his 30th birthday, a normal move for a day game after a night game. Johjima entered in the ninth but did not bat. … Johjima’s replacement, seldom-used Rene Rivera, struck out three times. He also had a passed ball that put Punto in position to score in the first inning.

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