SEATTLE (AP)—If the Minnesota Twins fall short in their quest to win the AL Central, they may remember this loss.
And if these young, upstart contenders end up winning their tight division, they may still remember it: for the levity and leadership shown after it by manager Ron Gardenhire.
Ibanez set Seattle’s record for RBIs in one frame, one more than Ken Griffey Jr. had in the fifth inning on April 29, 1999, at the old Kingdome.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal,” said Ibanez, who thought he was going to be traded to Toronto or the New York Mets last week. “I wasn’t even sure it was the same inning.”
Ibanez sent Minnesota out of the AL Central lead with a potentially devastating loss. The Twins, a major league-best 31-14 since June 13 entering Monday, fell a percentage point behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central, one day after they reached for the top for the first time in three months.
Afterward, a red-faced Gardenhire fumed about his two-faced bullpen. It is the best in the majors in home ERA (2.11) but baseball’s worst away from the Metrodome, with an ERA of 6.31 after allowing six runs in Seattle’s 10-run seventh-inning.
“We got nobody out in the bullpen. Just terrible pitches. Balls flying around everywhere,” Gardenhire said.
“We have to have someone … step up and make pitches. Not very much fun.”
Yet moments later, in the middle of a silent clubhouse with players dressing, Gardenhire playfully scolded equipment guys for ruining the road trip after just one night. Wearing a T-shirt that read “Lead. Follow. Or get the hell out of the way” on the back, Gardenhire saw one Minnesotan with a long face and joked: “Don’t look sad. I’ll send you home, too.”
The message was clear: be angry. And then be done with this, ready to resume the long pennant race tomorrow.
Minnesota starter Glen Perkins, who cruised into the sixth with a 6-0 lead and was still comfortably up 6-1 with one out in the seventh before Ibanez hit his grand slam off him, got the message.
“I can’t dwell on this. I’ve got to get ready for my next outing. Hopefully the guys will pick me up,” Perkins said.
Ibanez, who thought he was going to be traded to Toronto or the New York Mets a week ago, then hit Perkins’ inside fastball about six rows into the right-field bleachers. His seventh career grand slam cut the lead to 6-5—and awakened what had been another frustrated, booing crowd.
“Exactly what I was trying to avoid,” Perkins said.
Lopez took second with one out on a passed ball. With two outs rookie Jeff Clement, pinch-hitting for Kenji Johjima against reliever Matt Guerrier, singled in Lopez with the go-ahead run. As Lopez slid into home, the home crowd was as loud as its been all dreary season and the Mariners dugout erupted and spilled partly onto the field as if they were 26 games over .500, instead of 26 under.
“We know he’s a fastball hitter—and we throw him a fastball right down the middle,” Gardenhire spat out.
When asked if he knew Clement was a fastball feaster, Guerrier said: “No … I guess I know that now.”
A throwing error by shortstop Brendan Harris gave Seattle two more runs.
Guerrier then loaded the bases with two walks—one intentional—for Ibanez, who lined a single to put Seattle ahead 11-6.
That was the most runs the Mariners scored in an inning in nearly five years, since Aug. 30, 2003, against Baltimore. It came just as it appeared Seattle was going to tie its season low of 28 games under .500.
Roy Corcoran (2-0) pitched a scoreless top of the seventh for the victory.
Miguel Batista allowed six runs and seven hits, with four walks, in his three-plus innings, raising the right-hander’s ERA to 7.49 in his 19 starts— the worst among major leaguers with at least 15 starts.
Nick Punto hit his second home run in 167 plate appearances this season leading off the third for Minnesota.
When Francisco Liriano’s first major league win since 2006 put the Twins in first place on Sunday, it was the first time since 1990 a team had gained sole possession of first place this late in a season on a pitcher’s initial win of the season.