Were style points awarded, or if baseball had the equivalent of a three-point line, the Mariners might not be smarting right now from a costly 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
Nelson Cruz crushed a 493-foot homer Saturday night that reached the third deck at Target Field. It was the longest homer of the season by an American League player.
And it wasn’t enough.
"We should score more runs," Cruz said. "(Mariners starter Ariel) Miranda made two mistakes, and they made him pay, but the bottom line is we didn’t score enough runs. We should score more runs than we scored today."
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Cruz’s homer accounted for the Mariners’ only runs against Minnesota starter Tyler Duffey (9-11) in seven innings. Taylor Rogers and Brandon Kintzler closed out the Twins’ victory, which snapped a seven-game skid.
The Mariners mounted a threat in the ninth inning after Robinson Cano led off with a single. After Mike Freeman replaced Cano as a pinch-runner, Cruz hit what should have been a double-play grounder to third.
Except Miguel Sano bobbled the ball for an error. Everyone was safe. But the chance slipped away when Sano atoned for his error by turning Kyle Seager’s grounder into a double play.
Kintzler ended the game by retiring Adam Lind on a fly to left.
It loomed as a costly loss for the Mariners in their uphill battle to reach postseason for the first time in 15 years.
While Detroit lost, Toronto and Baltimore each won, which leaves the Mariners trailing the Orioles by 2 1/2 games for the American League’s final wild-card berth with eight games remaining.
"It’s disappointing," manager Scott Servais said. "With Detroit losing, we had a chance to make up a little ground."
Miranda had won his four previous starts, but he lasted just four innings before exiting after 52 pitches. He gave up just three hits, but two left the park: Jorge Polanco in the first inning, and Sano in the fourth.
Sano's blast came on Miranda’s first pitch after Cruz’s game-tying homer.
"His missed his spot on two fastballs," catcher Mike Zunino said. "He tried to go away, and they cut back to middle, middle in. They hit two homers.
"Those are the ones where, if you miss your spot, you hope it’s a single or a double. But they left the yard, and those were the ones that came back to hurt us."
Servais said he went to the bullpen in the fifth inning because "Miranda wasn’t as sharp. The ball was up. He gave up a couple of solo homers…We felt we weren’t in a position to give up a lot more."
The Mariners are 1-4 this season against the Twins, who have the worst record in baseball. The series concludes Sunday before the Mariners close the season with three games at Houston and four at home against Oakland.
"They’re all important," Servais said. "Tonight was important. Tomorrow is important. The next day is important. It’s where we’re at in the season."
The Twins grabbed an early lead when Polanco turned on an 0-1 fastball for a one-out homer over the left-field wall in the first inning.
Cruz’s leadoff double in the second inning provided the Mariners with a chance to answer, but Duffey retired the next three hitters.
Miranda found more trouble in the Minnesota second after starting the inning with a four-pitch walk to Kennys Vargas, who went to third on Max Kepler’s single through the right side.
Seager took an RBI single away from John Ryan Murphy by grabbing a line drive to third, but the Twins scored when the Mariners settled for a force at second on Logan Schafer’s grounder to second.
The Mariners pulled even in the fourth inning on Cruz’s missile into the third deck beyond the left-field wall. He hit a full-count fastball from Duffey for his 39th homer of the season.
The tie didn’t last one pitch into the bottom of the inning.
Sano lashed a fastball from Miranda over the left-field wall. The Twins led 3-2. That’s how it ended.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Nelson Cruz’s 493-foot homer is one the most impressive anyone is likely to see.
PLUS: Reliever Drew Storen retired six straight batters on 16 total pitches, including three strikeouts, after replacing starter Ariel Miranda to start the fifth inning…Evan Scribner and Tom Wilhelmsen also had one-two-three innings…Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz each had two hits.
MINUS: The Mariners were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position…other than Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, the Mariners were a combined 1-for-24.
STAT PACK: Nelson Cruz’s 493-foot homer, according to the MLB Statcast projection, was the longest of the season by an American League player. It was the second longest in the majors, trailing only a 504-foot blast by Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton.
QUOTABLE: Asked if he’s ever hit a more impressive homer, Nelson Cruz said: "I’ve hit a few over there, but they didn’t measure that far. You never know with Statcast. You never know how far (they project) they’re going to go until they say it."
SHORT HOPS: The game lasted just 2 hours, 6 minutes. It was the fastest game of the year for both teams…Nelson Cruz has seven homers in his last nine games at Target Field and is batting .425 (17-for-40) in that span with 14 RBIs…the Mariners had won seven straight road games before Saturday’s loss…the Twins staved off their 100th loss. They are 56-99 with seven games remaining.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners