MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — After going deep twice in a game for the first time in his big league career, Chris Gimenez still has more mop-up relief appearances this season than home runs.
Wait, maybe the Minnesota Twins have this whole thing backward with their backup catcher.
“Hopefully I’m one of the better hitting pitchers in the league,” Gimenez said with a wide smile, after his pair of drives on Thursday spurred the Twins to a 6-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Eduardo Escobar sparked a five-run first inning with a two-run shot, and Jose Berrios (6-1) took over from there by pitching a career-best eight innings to win his third straight start. The first-place Twins raised their home record, the worst in the major leagues, to 14-20 with the four-game series split.
Gimenez hit a three-run homer with two outs in the fateful first for Ariel Miranda (6-3), who lost for the first time in 10 starts for the Mariners and lasted only four innings with 10 hits and six runs allowed. Gimenez then hit the foul pole in left field with a solo drive in the third inning, giving the 34-year-old a total of 18 home runs in 867 plate appearances.
“I had to talk to it a little bit as I was running to first,” Gimenez said.
His conversations with Berrios throughout the afternoon turned out well, too, driving a strategy to mix in some changeups with a lively fastball that the right-hander spotted well and that devastating curveball.
“We had chances to kind of get close but could never mount the big rally against him,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.
Berrios struck out six and yielded two runs and five hits. After finishing six innings only once in 14 starts as a rookie last season on his way to an 8.02 ERA, Berrios has lasted that long in five of seven turns this year.
“I was blessed to be able to go as far as I did today,” he said through the team’s interpreter.
Berrios silenced a lineup that totaled 45 hits and 27 runs over the first three games of the series, handing the Mariners just their sixth loss in the last 18 games.
“Sometimes it takes them awhile to get comfortable and trust what they can do up here,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We all never really lost hope that he was going to figure it out.”
GAMEL KEEPS GOING
Ben Gamel and Robinson Cano had RBI singles for the Mariners, with Gamel stretching his hitting streak to seven straight games. He’s 15 for 30 with five doubles during the run and has reached base 14 times in his last 24 plate appearances.
Escobar has three homers in the last five games. He went 3 for 4 and is batting .362 with four home runs and 12 RBIs against left-handers this season. In his last eight games overall, Escobar is 18 for 31 with eight RBIs.
MIRANDA NOT RIGHT
With fellow starters Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly on the disabled list and James Paxton just recently coming off of it, Miranda has been a key cog in Seattle’s rotation.
He was 5-0 in his last nine starts, with six straight turns of two or fewer runs allowed, until this dud that began with a leadoff double by Brian Dozier. Mitch Haniger had a reasonable opportunity to catch it on the warning track, but the ball veered away at the end of its journey and eluded his glove. Escobar followed with a home run, his third in five games.
Miranda, the 28-year-old acquired last summer in a trade with Baltimore for Wade Miley, has allowed 11 homers with a 6.56 ERA in eight starts on the road. This time he went to the off-speed pitches too quickly.
“He’s got to keep throwing his fastball until you get a feel for it, because that’s his pitch,” Servais said. “That sets up everything else.”
Mariners: SS Jean Segura (sprained right ankle) could play a rehab game for Triple-A Tacoma this weekend and be back in the lineup as soon as next week. … Iwakuma made his first rehab start for Class A Modesto on Wednesday, finishing four scoreless innings with one hit allowed.
Twins: LHP Hector Santiago (sore left shoulder) threw a bullpen session, but the Twins picked Adam Wilk to join Adalberto Mejia as the starters for the split doubleheader on Saturday instead of taking Santiago off the 10-day DL. Wilk will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester as the 26th player for the day.
Mariners: Paxton (5-1, 2.25 ERA) starts on Friday to begin a series at Texas. For the Rangers, RHP Tyson Ross will make his season debut.
Twins: LHP Nik Turley (0-0, 9.00 ERA) takes the mound on Friday to open a series against Cleveland. RHP Carlos Carrasco (6-3, 3.36 ERA) starts for the Indians.