MINNEAPOLIS — Nelson Cruz’s towering two-run home run seemed to give the Seattle Mariners the jolt they needed Saturday night, tying the score with the second-longest homer in the majors this season.
Instead, Minnesota’s own big slugger, Miguel Sano, responded with his own big swing and a big defensive play after an error in the ninth inning to keep Seattle’s struggling offense down and deal a blow to the Mariners’ wild-card hopes.
Sano hit a tiebreaking homer in the fourth inning and Tyler Duffey pitched seven strong innings for his best start in more than a month as the Twins beat Seattle 3-2 on Saturday night.
“They hit a big homer there,” Sano said. “But I want the team win every day, and not a loss.”
Sano’s 24th homer followed Cruz’s tying shot in the top of the fourth. Cruz’s homer reached the third deck in left field for what was estimated by MLB’s Statcast as 493 feet, the second-longest home run in the majors this season behind a 504-foot strike by Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton in Colorado’s Coors Field.
“I’ve hit a few over there but they haven’t measured that far,” Cruz said. “You never know with Statcast, you never know how far it’s going to go until they say.”
Duffey (9-11) gave up the two runs and four hits while striking out four Seattle hitters. It’s just the third win by a Minnesota starter since Sept. 3.
“Pitching, it’s amazing how it can change the complexion of the game,” Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said.
Jorge Polanco also had a solo home run for the Twins, who snapped a seven-game losing streak.
The Mariners threatened in the ninth against Brandon Kintzler when Robinson Cano singled and Cruz reached on an error by Sano. But Kyle Seager’s hard grounder was snared by Sano, who stepped on third and threw to first for a double play. Adam Lind flied out to end the game and give Kintzler his 15th save in 18 chances.
“Bad moment that I miss the ball, try to catch and throw early,” Sano said. “I told Polanco, ‘I want another ball.’ Caught and make double play, finish the game there. This is the situation. My fault when I miss the ball, need to keep going.”
Ariel Miranda (5-2) lost for the first time in five starts this month, lasting four innings and giving up three runs and three hits. Seattle fell 2 1/2 games behind Baltimore for the second AL wild card.
“They’re all important,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Tonight was important, tomorrow’s important, the next one’s important. It’s just where we are in the season.”
The Mariners have struggled offensively even while winning 11 of their previous 15 games. They’ve scored two runs or fewer in six of their past eight games.
The Twins have been in a similar stretch. Polanco’s third home run of the season in the first gave the team its first lead since last Saturday at the New York Mets.
Duffey had allowed at least five earned runs in three of his past five starts, and the right-hander had his most recent start skipped due to an off day. He said he made an adjustment between starts.
“Like I told (Molitor) when I came out, ‘You get pissed off enough, you eventually make an adjustment,'” Duffey said, later adding: “Just slowing down. I finally found a good rhythm to keep me composed, to keep from pulling off the ball. I located a lot better today.”
Twins: 1B Joe Mauer was out of the lineup for the fourth straight game as he deals with sore quadriceps. Manager Paul Molitor said he would see how Mauer felt on Sunday to see if he could be in the lineup for the final home game of the season.
Mariners RHP Taijuan Walker (6-11, 4.32 ERA) starts against Santiago (12-9, 4.82). Walker gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Twins earlier this season. Santiago was 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts against the Mariners this season with the Los Angeles Angels. But Santiago has a 6.20 ERA in nine starts for Minnesota after being acquired in a trade.