MINNEAPOLIS – These young Seattle Mariners have taken more than their share of lumps over the past three seasons.
As they prepare to enter the final month of manager Eric Wedge’s second season on the job, the Mariners are starting to give their fans some reason for optimism.
Blake Beavan gave up two runs in seven innings and Trayvon Robinson drove in two runs to lift Seattle to a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.
Beavan (9-8) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out one, shrugging off a shaky first inning.
Kyle Seager also drove in two runs for the Mariners, who have won 11 of their past 15 games and posted back-to-back winning months for the first time since 2009.
They had a 15-11 record in July and have matched that so far in August.
“They’ve gained a great deal of experience this year,” Wedge said. “We’ve had a lot of tough games, a lot of tight games, very similar to today. Their heartbeat’s a lot better. They’re much more experienced and they’re doing a lot better job in step-up opportunities.”
The Twins’ Brian Duensing (3-10) gave up three earned runs and four hits in 5 innings. He left after loading the bases in the sixth, and left fielder Josh Willingham’s blunder contributed to Seattle’s four-run inning.
Willingham’s two-run homer in the eighth off Stephen Pryor made things tighter, but Tom Wilhelmsen picked up his 21st save to help the Mariners take three out of four in the series.
The Twins had the tying run on third base after pinch-runner Darin Mastroianni stole two bases, but a shaky Wilhelmsen got Ben Revere to ground out to preserve the win for Beavan.
Beavan wasn’t overpowering, but he mixed his pitches and changed speeds just enough to keep the Twins off balance one night after they erupted for 10 runs. After giving up two runs in the first inning, Beavan retired 14 of his last 15 hitters.
“We just took the momentum and ran with it,” Beavan said.
The Mariners loaded the bases to start the sixth and Duensing left after giving up a sacrifice fly to Seager that tied it. Willingham then dropped a fly ball hit by Jesus Montero to score another run and make it 3-2. Robinson added a two-run single.
“We’ve got each other’s back from the first inning to the last inning,” Robinson said. “It’s kind of like a snowball. Once somebody does it, everybody does it.”
The Mariners were 16 games under .500 on July 15, a lackluster performance that led to the departure of longtime icon Ichiro Suzuki, who was traded to the Yankees.
The Mariners had a seven-game winning streak to close July and an eight-gamer earlier this month to start climbing toward respectability.
“Everybody’s just kind of feeding off each other,” Beavan said. “Everybody wants to get better and is willing to put in the extra effort and the work. … You’re starting to see that. Guys are buying into that way of playing.
Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders missed his sixth consecutive game with a groin strain, but Wedge said he expected him back today when the Mariners open a nine-game home stand. … Twins catcher Joe Mauer has thrown out 12 percent (six out of 49) of runners trying to steal this season, by far the worst of his career. Manager Ron Gardenhire blamed slow slide-step deliveries by the team’s pitchers. But he also said the Twins are working with Mauer on staying on the balls of his feet.
The Mariners return home for a nine-game stay, starting with a 7:10 p.m. contest today against the Los Angeles Angels. Dan Haren (8-10, 4.82 ERA) of the Angels is scheduled to face Kevin Millwood (4-11, 4.28).