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Twins rally by Mariners

By La Velle E. Neal III, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

SEATTLE — How bad has the Minnesota Twins’ offense been lately? It would offend the dead ball era.

But if you get good pitching, you have a chance to win with a slapshot offense. And, thanks to a little help by the Mariners, the Twins’ steamroll toward offensive ineptitude was halted for a game as they rallied to win, 3-2, on Friday night at Safeco Field.

The Twins came back from a 2-0 deficit with three runs in the seventh on a double, two walks and three batted balls that didn’t leave the infield, with a huge error by reliever Tom Wilhelmsen thrown in for good measure.

Ugly, yet effective.

“It takes the monkey off your back,” acting manager Scott Ullger said. “You can add pressure on you to score runs.”

There was no hangover, sort of, after they were no-hit by Angels ace Jered Weaver on Wednesday. And a day off to think about it didn’t make matters worse, apparently.

“I just try to worry about if we are going to win,” Twins outfielder Josh Willingham said before the game. “Not if we’re going to hit rock bottom.”

They had to beat history, though, before they could beat the Mariners.

The 1981 Dodgers went 16 innings without a hit, believed to be the longest drought since the Twins touched down in California earlier this week and were overwhelmed by Angels pitching. The Twins began Friday without a hit in 15 innings.

But they put that to rest with one out in the first inning when Jamey Carroll slapped a solid single to left. That broke an 0-for-47 skid by the team.

Next up was the scoreless inning streak, which hit 25 innings as the game headed for the seventh. It was their longest scoreless drought since they were shut down July 31-Aug. 4, 1994. The Twins trailed 2-0 heading into seventh inning as the Mariners scored both their runs in the fifth on RBI doubles by Kyle Seager and Mike Carp.

With one out, Chris Parmelee drilled a double to left-center. Mariners starter Jason Vargas had thrown 103 pitches, and the Twins’ No. 8 and 9 hitters, Alexi Casilla and Drew Butera, were due up.

Here’s where the Mariners stepped up, as manager Eric Wedge went to the mound and replaced Vargas with hard-throwing, don’t-know-where-it’s-going righthander Wilhelmsen.

Wilhelmsen walked both Casilla and Trevor Plouffe, who was pinch-hitting for Butera, to load the bases. Both walks came on 3-2 pitches.

“I thought the key at-bat was by Plouffe coming off the bench, facing a tough righthander,” Ullger said. “He really had a great at-bat. Ended up walking. Keep the line moving, is what we have been talking about. He did just that and we ended up scoring three runs.”

Denard Span followed with a grounder back to the mound. Instead of getting a sure out at home and a possible inning-ending 1-2-3 double play, Wilhelmsen spun and threw wildly to second. Everyone was safe, and Parmelee scored the Twins’ first run since the eighth inning Monday night in Anaheim.

“It was a break that went our way that we hadn’t see in a while,” Twins starter Carl Pavano said of Wilhelmsen’s error. “This could get the ball rolling.”

Carroll then reached on a fielder’s choice as Casilla scored the tying run. Joe Mauer followed  with a grounder up the middle off lefthander Charlie Furbush, and though Seattle shortstop Brendan Ryan knocked the ball down, he couldn’t make a play, resulting in an infield single that scored Plouffe with the go-ahead run.

The Twins bullpen took over from there with three perfect innings, the first two from lefthanders Brian Duensing and Glen Perkins before Matt Capps closed it out in the ninth.

Pavano was reunited with Butera — his personal catcher from the past couple of years who was recently promoted. Pavano celebrated by giving up two runs over six innings on just 69 pitches as he improved to 2-2.

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