The starting pitcher went seven strong innings, the offense again surged early and the Seattle Mariners won their second game in a row Sunday, beating the Minnesota Twins, 5-2.
And, quietly working the eighth inning, left-hander Lucas Luetge continued a remarkable start to his rookie season.
Hector Noesi got his second win and shaved 1.50 off his earned run average, Jesus Montero doubled home two first-inning runs and Kyle Seager stayed hot by driving in Montero.
By the eighth, with the Mariners leading the Twins, 5-1, no one paid much attention to Luetge, the Rule 5 draftee whose appearance Sunday was the 12th of his career.
He hasn’t allowed a run, yet.
“Everybody knows his stats at this time of year – there haven’t been that many games,” Luetge said. “I know someone is going to score on me eventually, but, yeah, I know I haven’t allowed a run yet.
“My goal is to extend that as long as I can. I don’t think anyone has ever gone an entire season and not allowed a run …”
Taking over for Noesi, who has allowed four, then three and now one run in his past three starts, Luetge walked the first batter he faced.
“Trying to keep the game exciting,” he deadpanned.
He came back to get a foul pop up, then a ground ball double play. Three batters faced, three outs. And now that 12-game streak has allowed Seattle’s situational left-hander to work 8 scoreless innings at the start of his career.
The team record? Mark Lowe with 13 appearances covering 17 scoreless innings.
For those who wonder if Luetge was always this good, he has a quick answer.
“In high Class A, I was in great shape because I backed up third base so much,” Luetge said. “When I got here this year, my goal was to get the first batter I faced out. Then I went from there.”
Like Luetge, the Mariners are a distinctly under-the-radar team in 2012 with an up- and-down track record. Winning streaks have been followed by longer skids.
After losing seven in a row, including the last six on the road, they’ve now won their last two games.
Granted, they were facing the 7-20 Twins, but baseball is about playing out the 162-game schedule. Some days you play the Tampa Bay Rays, others the Twins.
After Noesi got through the first inning, the Mariners got all they would need in their half.
“That’s always the goal, score early and let the pitching relax,” Mike Carp said. “Our pitching can dominate.”
Dustin Ackley led off the Seattle first with a walk, Brendan Ryan singled him to second and, with one out, designated hitter Montero grounded hard down the left field line – a two-run double.
Seager, who has 10 RBI in his past five games, singled Montero home for his 17th RBI.
“He’s been a very consistent hitter at every level he’s played, and he has a professional approach to every at-bat,” manager Eric Wedge said of Seager. “He likes batting in RBI situations, and he’s become a good defensive third baseman.”
Ah, that. Behind Noesi, Ryan at shortstop and Seager (twice) made marvelous plays on tough ground balls, turning possible hits into outs.
Meanwhile, the Mariners padded that early lead.
Carp hit his first 2012 home run in the second inning – “It was a curveball,” he said – and in the fourth inning, Ackley tripled with one out and Ryan’s fly ball pushed him home.
Noesi gave up a leadoff home run to Ryan Doumit in the seventh – Doumit would hit another in the ninth against Tom Wilhelmsen.
The toughest moment for Noesi in this one didn’t come with a batter at the plate, but in the third inning when catcher John Jaso and plate umpire Mike Everitt each threw him a baseball.
With both in the air, Noesi simply fled the mound.
“I ran away,” Noesi said.
Other than that, he and Jaso seemed to work well together.
“I liked it because he kept making me keep my pitches down, which is good for me,” Noesi said. “We worked together in spring training. I have more confidence every start.”
After seven innings, Noesi had allowed four hits, walked three and struck out four, throwing 104 pitches. Wedge went to Luetge for the eighth inning and, in the ninth, Wilhelmsen.
Wilhelmsen allowed Doumit’s second solo home run, which left him more irritated than dejected.
“I want to get back to the no-runs-allowed innings,” he grumbled.
In a team-high 15 games – tied with Steve Delabar – Wilhelmsen has worked a bullpen best 172/3 innings already this year, fashioning an ERA of 3.06.
That’s not quite a good as Luetge’s, but whose firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners/