After winning just one series over the span of six weeks, the Seattle Mariners will try to notch their second series victory in a row when they face the Minnesota Twins on Thursday afternoon in Minneapolis.
The Mariners began their current nine-game road trip by taking two out of three against the Los Angeles Angels. They bounced back from a 6-5 loss to Minnesota in Tuesday night's opener to defeat the Twins 9-6 in 10 innings on Wednesday night to even the series heading into Thursday's rubber match.
Kikuchi gave up three runs (one earned) on five hits over six innings in a 7-4 victory over the Twins on May 19 in Seattle in his only meeting with Minnesota.
Pineda received a no decision in his latest start, a 6-3 Minnesota victory at Detroit on Friday, when he allowed three runs on eight hits over five innings. It was his first start after coming off the 10-day injured list, having recovered from right knee tendinitis, and the sixth straight start in which he allowed exactly three earned runs.
Pineda is 2-1 in four career starts against the Mariners with a 5.18 ERA, including a 1-0 mark this season. He gave up three runs on five hits in seven innings of Minnesota's 11-6 victory on May 16 at Seattle.
Kikuchi has lost his last three starts since the win over the Twins, going 3 1/3 innings in each one. He has surrendered 29 hits and 16 earned runs over that span while also allowing six home runs.
Seattle, which overcame a two-run game-tying home run by Byron Buxton in the ninth inning to pull out Wednesday night's contest courtesy of three Minnesota errors and three unearned runs in the 10th, won for just the ninth time in its last 32 games. However, the Mariners are 4-3 in their past seven, a span that started with a 14-1 home victory over Houston.
"We've just got to keep going," said Mariners second baseman Dee Gordon, who went 2-for-5 Wednesday with two doubles and scored what proved to be the winning run. "We've got a young team. These guys are getting big reps and have to continue to get their confidence."
"A lot of big hits tonight," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "Offensively a big night for Vogelbach, Shed hitting his first homer, (and) Mallex and Dee both had good nights. ... We forced them to make a few mistakes and took advantage of it."
Despite committing five errors, the Twins, who trailed 6-1 going into the bottom of the eighth, rallied to send the game into extra innings thanks to Buxton's 432-foot two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
However, Gordon led off the 10th inning with a ground-rule double and scored what proved to be the game-winning run on a Smith grounder when catcher Mitch Garver dropped the ball while spinning to tag him at home plate. Garver was taking a throw that was in plenty of time from first baseman C.J. Cron.
"I think games like this sometimes happen," Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. "I think we've been pretty good defensively overall this year. ... I don't see it as anything to be overly worried about. It obviously cost us tonight, but I don't see any trends or anything like that."
--Field Level Media