MINNEAPOLIS — James Paxton was cruising along for the Seattle Mariners, as he’s done often this season. Then Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and the middle of the Seattle Mariners’ batting order order broke out.
Cano had four hits and two RBIs, Cruz added a two-run homer among his four RBIs and the Mariners beat the Minnesota Twins 10-1 on Friday night to stay on pace in the AL wild-card race.
“Nice to see the middle of our lineup come together,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “We haven’t had a game like that in a while. … Those guys are huge in the middle. They’ve carried us all year. Nice to see them get going again.”
Seattle trailed Detroit by two games for the second wild card but passed Houston.
Paxton (5-7) struck out nine and allowed one run on five hits. Seattle, which scored six runs in the seventh inning, entered Friday averaging just 2.88 runs per game while Paxton was on the mound.
“Feels good,” Paxton said of pitching well while in the playoff race. “This is what we need. We need to win right now. Guys are playing hard and we’re doing our best to stay right there, and try to climb up in the wild-card standings.”
Kyle Gibson (6-10) gave up two runs, five hits and four walks for Minnesota, which lost its seventh straight and fell to 99 losses, its most since 2011.
“It’s tough to be too satisfied with a game where you only went five innings, threw a hundred pitches and your team loses 10-1,” Gibson said. “I think there’s some positives but it’s hard to focus on those at that time.”
With a biting curveball at his disposal, Paxton allowed just three hits, two on infield singles, before waiting through the long top of the seventh. The only blemish on his night was Miguel Sano leading off the seventh with a triple off the wall in right field and scoring on Kennys Vargas’ single.
“He was in total control,” Servais said. “It was great to see. Fun watching him go like that because he gets on those rolls and the release point’s very consistent.”
Seattle supplied Paxton with the most run support he’s received in a start this season.
Cano and Mike Zunino had RBI bloop singles in the third and fourth before a big inning against three relievers.
Cano drove in a run with an infield single. Cruz followed with a two-run double, Kyle Seager had an RBI double and Zunino’s single led to two runs when left fielder Robbie Grossman committed two errors. Grossman let the ball bounce off his glove and then kicked the ball as he went to retrieve it.
Byron Buxton made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Cruz of at least extra bases in the third, but Cruz hit his 38th homer in the eighth, a drive off the stone facing above the batter’s eye in center field. MLB’s Statcast said the ball would have traveled 454 feet had it landed unimpeded.
Seattle had scored two runs or fewer in six of its previous seven games.
The start was delayed by 35 minutes due to rain, marking the 14th delay or postponement in Minnesota this season.
Seattle announced Friday that Justin Hollander has been hired as the team’s director of baseball operations.
Hollander, 37, was the Los Angeles Angels director of player personnel. He was hired by Los Angeles in 2008, serving multiple roles, where he worked under Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto.
Hollander steps into the role left behind by Caleb Peiffer, who left the team to attend law school.
Twins: RF Max Kepler was out of the lineup but was cleared to play after leaving Thursday’s doubleheader with a mild neck strain from hitting the wall awkwardly. . 1B Joe Mauer was out of the lineup for the third straight game as he deals with sore quadriceps. He hasn’t started since Sept. 17.
Seattle LHP Ariel Miranda (5-1, 3.88 ERA) hopes to keep his surprising run going on Saturday. Minnesota will send RHP Tyler Duffey (8-11, 6.39) to the mound. Miranda has gone 4-0 with a 2.16 ERA in his last four starts with 20 strikeouts in 25 innings. Duffey has allowed at least five earned runs in three of his last four outings.
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