Hunter’s clutch hit and grand slam send Twins past Mariners again, 6-1
SEATTLE (AP)—With his Twins sinking into irrelevance, Torii Hunter tried a different, unseemly tack.
“You stink,” Minnesota’s team leader began telling his manager, teammates, even himself in the dugout after the Twins began a road trip 1-6.
Day 2 of this foul-mouthed motivation ended with Hunter hitting the tiebreaking single in the eighth inning and a grand slam in the ninth to lead the Twins to a second consecutive victory over the previously soaring Seattle Mariners, 6-1 on Wednesday.
“Reverse psychology. We do stink … though awesomely,” Hunter said, beaming after his second slam this season against the AL wild card leaders.
The Mariners, who lost for the third time in nine games, stayed a percentage point ahead of the New York Yankees in that race.
“If that’s what they want to say to me, that’s fine. Whatever works for them,” manager Ron Gardenhire said of the team-wide putdown Hunter concocted after a tough loss Monday.
Gardenhire was ejected in the sixth inning while trying to protect Michael Cuddyer from an ejection. That would have exposed a thin bench.
Scott Baker allowed eight hits in 6 2-3 innings for Minnesota, which improved to 5-9 in August. Baker struck out seven and walked two in a sharp, bounce-back outing after he gave up six runs in a 10-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels last weekend.
The Twins, a playoff team in four of the previous five seasons, weren’t declaring themselves back in contention after consecutive wins against the team that entered Wednesday with the third-best record in the major leagues. Minnesota is seven games behind Seattle in the wild-card race—the same deficit it trailed Detroit in the AL Central when the day began.
But many Twins were keenly watching the game between the Tigers and second-place Cleveland on the clubhouse television as they packed for home after the game.
“Oh, yeah, right about this time last year we were six, seven games back,” Hunter said about the team that rallied from 9 1/2 back last Aug. 8 to overtake the Tigers for the division title on the season’s final day. “One hundred and sixty-two games. Patience is a virtue.”
But as Baker said, “We’ve got a long ways to go.”
Washburn said he “tried to slow my arm down” when he saw second baseman Lopez was late covering first base on Punto’s bunt. That put runners at second and third, and Joe Mauer was intentionally walked before Hunter lined Morrow’s first pitch for his 80th RBI.
In the ninth, Seattle again walked Mauer intentionally with two outs to load the bases. Hunter then hit his ninth career slam, this one off Sean Green, into the Twins’ bullpen. Reliever Joe Nathan caught the ball on a fly and returned the ball to Hunter, so he can commemorate moving one behind Harmon Killebrew on Minnesota’s career list for slams.
“Wow, Harmon Killebrew. That’s impressive,” Hunter said.
“Used to be a shortstop. You know, not too many people can make that throw,” Hunter said, cackling.
Rondell White put Minnesota ahead in the fifth with his first home run since last year’s AL division series against Oakland. He began the day batting .157 in 15 games after missing more than three months with a strained calf.
Raul Ibanez tied it at 1 in the sixth with his sixth home run in nine games.
Minnesota’s Jason Bartlett left the game with a strained left hamstring after beating out an infield single to start the sixth. Gardenhire said his shortstop will “probably” go on the disabled list before Friday’s game against Texas.
Washburn (8-10) then walked Mauer before plate umpire Gary Cederstrom called out slumping slugger Justin Morneau on strikes for the second out. Washburn then fanned Cuddyer swinging and pumped his fist. Gardenhire came out to break up Cuddyer jawing with Cederstrom, and was immediately ejected. The umpire and manager shouted at each other for about a minute before Gardenhire stomped off.
It was the third ejection of the season for Gardenhire and the 31st of his managerial career.
Washburn allowed seven hits and two runs—one earned—in seven-plus innings, but still lost his fourth consecutive decision. He hasn’t won since July 4.
“I hope I’m due,” he said.
Twins INF Tommy Watkins got his first major league hit, in his third game, with a single in the fifth. He also singled in the ninth. … Washburn struck out five and walked two.