The Seattle Mariners' push for .500 took a step back, but their starting pitching continues to make positive strides.
Aaron Harang would like that trend to continue Saturday against the Minnesota Twins.
Since Mariners starters allowed 20 runs in three games against Boston from July 9-11, the rotation has yielded 18 earned runs during the team's 9-2 run. After Hisashi Iwakuma tossed six scoreless innings in Thursday's 8-2 victory over the Twins (44-56), ace Felix Hernandez was two outs from a shutout Friday when Trevor Plouffe's RBI single helped send the game to extra innings.
Rookie Chris Colabello's first career homer - a two-run shot - in the 13th was the difference as Minnesota snapped a six-game losing streak at Seattle (49-54) with a 3-2 victory.
"The last couple days I've been feeling a lot better in the box,'' said Colabello, who was 5 for 37 in his first 13 games. "I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to help the team and do what I could to be successful, and obviously something like that is pretty special. I'll remember it for a long time.''
The Twins now will try to win for the eighth time in 11 games as they face Harang (5-8, 5.06 ERA) for the second time this season. Making his first start against Minnesota in 10 years, Harang threw six innings of two-run ball in a 5-4 road win June 1.
The right-hander is hoping for another strong outing after watching Iwakuma and Hernandez roll through the Twins' lineup.
"You kind of want to match what the guy did the night before and that's how you get on good streaks," he said after giving up one run in seven innings of Monday's 2-1 victory over Cleveland. "It's that competitiveness in the clubhouse, but we're also going out there trying to help our team win."
Samuel Deduno (6-4, 3.50) has the same goal in mind as he attempts to match a career high by winning a third consecutive start.
After holding the Yankees to a run over seven innings right before the break in New York, the right-hander allowed two runs in seven Monday to help Minnesota open its seven-game trip with a 4-3 victory over the Angels.
"Sammy was unbelievable against a very tough lineup that can do a lot of things with the bat, and he made pitch after pitch,'' manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Deduno, who's pitched at least six innings in seven straight outings, made both of his starts against the Mariners last season. He went 1-1 with a 1.38 ERA in those contests, which included a 5-1 loss at Seattle on Aug. 19 as he walked a career-worst six.
If he runs into any problems Saturday, Gardenhire should have no reservations about turning to his bullpen. That group has surrendered just three runs in 12 2-3 innings this series - including a solo homer by Kendrys Morales in the 13th inning Friday - and owns a 1.86 ERA over the last 14 games.
Joe Mauer won't be behind the plate for the Twins until at least Tuesday as he remains with his family after his wife gave birth to twin girls this week.
The Mariners could be without rookie catcher Mike Zunino for the rest of the season after he was placed on the disabled list Friday with a broken bone in his left hand. Seattle signed veteran Humberto Quintero to help fill that void, but Henry Blanco should get a majority of the work behind the plate.
"We're going to lean on him quite a bit here on out,'' said bench coach Robby Thompson, who's serving as acting manager with Eric Wedge recovering from a minor stroke suffered earlier this week.