SEATTLE (AP) — Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer against his former team, rookie starter Bailey Ober struck out six and the Minnesota Twins beat the Seattle Mariners 7-2 on Wednesday night.
Cruz’s second-deck shot to left field in the fifth inning made it 6-0 and helped snap the Twins’ three-game losing streak. It was his 431st career home run, moving him into a tie with Lou Gehrig at 49th on the career list.
“It's fun to watch," Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “His at-bats are explosive and when he hits a ball like he did today, it gets your attention right away.”
Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson left after scoring in the first inning with a right shin strain. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons was also injured, leaving after the fourth with a recurring left ankle sprain. The team said both are day to day and will take advantage of Thursday's day off.
Ryan Jeffers followed Cruz two batters later with a solo homer in the fifth inning. Jorge Polanco led off the game with a double against Mariners starter Justus Sheffield (5-6) and had three hits and three runs by the fifth inning, all against the left-hander.
“From the get-go the Twins came out swinging,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “They had a game plan against Sheff. They were going to be very aggressive. Sheff did pound the strike zone, no question about it, but they were on him. The big-time home run by Cruzy created some big separation, kind of took us out of it.”
Ober, a 6-foot-9 right-hander who is on a pitch limit because he did not play last season as a minor leaguer, gave up one hit over four innings with no walks, helping snap Seattle’s three-game winning streak. He threw 63 pitches and lobbied Baldelli to remain in the game.
“He did his job,” Baldelli said. “He could have gone out there again, but we're going to look after him and keep it rolling.”
Ober has given up two runs and eight hits in his last two games with 13 strikeouts over nine innings. He said the key has been to stop tinkering with the grip on his changeup.
“I'm much more comfortable now,” he said.
Reliever Caleb Thielbar (1-0) won on the day he returned to the bullpen from the 10-day injured list. Twins pitchers struck out the Mariners 11 times.
Shed Long Jr. and Ty France had RBI singles for Seattle.
CRUZ-IN’ IN SEATTLE
Cruz continued his home-run dominance at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park with the 84th of his career, just one behind ballpark leader Kyle Seager, Seattle’s third baseman. The designated hitter hit 163 home runs while playing for the Mariners from 2015-18.
Twins: OF Byron Buxton (hip strain) ran for Baldelli before the game in an attempt to prove he’s ready to return from the injured list. Baldelli said Buxton was not able to maintain a full sprint and won't be reinstated until he can do that a couple days in a row. ... RF Max Kepler (left hamstring strain) was scheduled to appear in a rehab game for Triple-A Saint Paul on Wednesday night. If all goes well, he could rejoin the team Friday at Texas.
Mariners: RF Mitch Haniger returned to the lineup after fouling a ball off his knee on Sunday against Cleveland. He was 1 for 4 with a run.
Twins: After a day off Thursday, RHP José Berríos (7-2, 3.49) takes the mound in the series opener at Texas. He goes for a career high with his sixth straight winning decision.
Mariners: RHP Justin Dunn (1-3, 3.91) faces Tampa Bay on Thursday in the series opener, his first start since ending a major league-leading 15-game streak allowing three or fewer runs.
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