SEATTLE – Brandon Kintzler threw 14 pitches Wednesday, and liked the first 13, more or less. He never saw 14th one land, though.
Mike Zunino clobbered it 435 feet to right-center field, a two-run blast that turned an apparent Twins victory into their first walk-off loss of the season, 6-5 to the Mariners. The Seattle catcher’s second home run of the night capped a four-homer game for the Mariners, and handed Kintzler his third blown save of the season in 18 opportunities.
“I left one pitch up, and the guy hits a homer,” Kintzler said of the stunning turnaround to an upbeat night for the Twins and their beleaguered bullpen. “I didn’t know [Zunino] could go the other way like that.”
Zunino’s first homer was the first of back-to-back long balls for the Mariners, with Carlos Ruiz following with a shot of his own, the veteran’s first homer since April 2016. Those were the only two hits allowed by Adalberto Mejia, the lefty starter for the Twins who nevertheless had to fight through five innings, allowing three runs.
Miguel Sano crushed a home run of his own, a three-run shot into the upper deck in left field, to cap a four-run, two-out rally in the fifth, a lead the Twins protected until the final batter of the game.
But they couldn’t hold on, falling for only the fourth time in 16 road games.
“I just have to treat it like every other inning,” Kintzler said. “Sometimes they get you. Most of the time, hopefully I get them.”
Kintzler retired the first two hitters of the inning, Kyle Seager and Taylor Motter, on easy ground balls. Then Ben Gamel hit a grounder, too, but it whistled through the infield for a hit, bringing Zunino to the plate. Kintzler missed with a pair of sinkers to fall behind 2-0, but another one caught the plate. He tried the same pitch again, a 94-mph one, and Zunino was on it.
“This game, it can turn on you,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Kintzler’s been really good, but a lot of damage that was done when we got behind hitters. On 2-0 they get a base hit up the middle, 2-0 and he hits a homer. We’ve done a good job of closing out, but these games, they’re tough.”
The walk-off loss, the first allowed by the Twins this season, spoiled a great night for Sano, whose three-run blast brought his RBI total to 46 on the season, tying him with Mariners outfielder Nelson Cruz, who was not in Seattle’s lineup Wednesday, for the American League lead.
Nobody has been hotter than the Mariners, who had won eight of their previous nine games, and it was up to Mejia to try to slow that momentum. He succeeded, sort of, despite not looking particularly sharp. The rookie lefthander allowed only two hits over five innings, but both were solo home runs, the second time this season (and fifth for the Twins) that batters have cracked back-to-back homers.
Mejia also walked three batters, and hit Ruiz with a pitch, providing a hitless one-run rally for the Mariners in the fifth. Zunino, who moved up on the hit batter and Guillermo Heredia’s deep fly out, scored on a Tyler Smith sacrifice fly.
Tyler Duffey relieved in the sixth inning and promptly surrendered Seager’s seventh home run of the season, and second in two days against the Twins.
The Twins’ first run of the game was driven in by Dozier, on a single to left just out of shortstop Smith’s reach, but third base coach Gene Glynn was partly responsible, too. As Eddie Rosario approached third base, Seattle left fielder Motter picked up the hit, and spun around to nonchalantly toss it back to Smith. Seeing Motter spin and ignore Rosario, Glynn alertly waved the runner home, and Smith’s relay had no chance of catching him.