Three-run rally in eighth inning boosts Twins past Mariners, 6-5

Phil Miller, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Baseball

MINNEAPOLIS -- Edwin Encarnacion did what he always does. Then Daniel Vogelbach did what he rarely does. The combination looked like it would be too much for the Twins.

But then Seattle's bullpen stepped in.

Minnesota rallied for three runs in the eighth inning, and won for the fourth time in five games, 6-5 over Seattle.

Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco opened the comeback from a 5-3 deficit with doubles, with Kepler scoring and Polanco moving to third on a fly ball. Then Seattle pitcher Austin Adams threw a wild pitch, tying the score. Moments later, Marwin Gonzalez -- who had struck out in all three of his previous at-bats -- lined a single into right field, scoring Nelson Cruz with the go-ahead run.

Until the Twins' big finish, the game looked like another Encarnacion moment at one of his favorite ballparks. Encarnacion, who has hit more home runs at Target Field than any visitor but one, launched a Martin Perez pitch into the front row in left field. Two innings later, Vogelbach drove in a run with a single for only the fourth time this season, breaking a 3-3 tie.

Perez, who allowed both critical hits, failed in his third attempt to collect his eighth win of the season, this time giving up four runs over five innings. His ERA in those past three starts: 10.95.

Mike Leake, meanwhile, excelled once more in his second career appearance at Target Field, allowing only three runs -- all of them scoring on back-to-back home runs by Jonathan Schoop and Jason Castro -- over seven strong innings. Leake, who spent most of his 10-year career in the National League, limited the Twins to three hits in five innings in April 2018, then struck out six in his start on Tuesday.

In a game matching MLB's two most homer-happy offenses, it figured that both teams relied on home runs early in the game. Encarnacion's hit was hardly a surprise; not only does the veteran slugger now own 16 homers in the Twins' home park, one fewer than Royals catcher Salvador Perez for most ever, but he's on one of his frequent hot streaks, too. Encarnacion has hit eight home runs in the first 11 days of June, and has homered for three straight days.

Still, his blast off Perez was painful, given the sudden turn the game took. The Twins left-hander did not allow a hit the first time through the Seattle order, but Mallex Smith broke that up by hitting a two-out grounder that Schoop had no play on at second base. Domingo Santana followed with a single to right field, bringing up the most dangerous hitter in the Mariners' lineup. And on a 1-1 count, Perez left an 89-mph cutter in the middle of the plate.

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It bounced off the fans in the front row of the left-field bleachers and bounced back onto the field as Perez shook his head and the three Mariners circled the bases.

In the fifth, Perez caused his own problem by walking the leadoff hitter, Smith, who promptly stole second base. After Encarnacion walked, Vogelbach, the burly designated hitter, fouled off three pitches, then lined a high fastball into left field, a rare RBI single for the power hitter.

The Mariners added another run off Ryne Harper in the seventh, stringing together three singles, with Kyle Seager providing a two-out hit to widen Seattle's lead.

The Twins were mostly shut down by Leake, but they did manage to counter Encarnacion's homer with two of their own. Schoop launched a homer to left, scoring Eddie Rosario ahead of him, and Castro bashed a long homer well over the seats in right field. It was the seventh time the Twins hit back-to-back homers this season, already more than their total of a year ago.

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