SEATTLE (AP) — Viral video star C.J. Cron and Byron Buxton fueled a seven-run fourth inning with homers, and Michael Pineda pitched the Minnesota Twins past the Seattle Mariners 11-6 on Thursday night.
The Twins hit four home runs to extend their streak to 11 straight games with a long ball and made Seattle pay for a pair of sloppy errors to win their third in a row and eighth in the last 11 games.
Leading 2-1 after solo home runs from Jason Castro and Max Kepler in the third inning against starter Erik Swanson (1-5), Minnesota sent 13 batters to the plate in the fourth.
Cron, who went 4 for 5 a day after an embarrassing error turned into a popular lowlight online, made it 4-1 with a mammoth two-run homer deep into the second deck in left field. Marwin Gonzalez followed with a single and Miguel Sano’s double put runners at second and third.
Castro then grounded to first baseman Edwin Encarnacion behind the bag. Instead of stepping on the base, Encarnacion made a quick, flat-footed throw home trying to get Gonzalez, but was off the mark and the error made it 5-1.
Buxton followed with a three-run homer to left for an 8-1 margin, ending Swanson’s night after he gave up nine hits in three-plus innings.
Parker Markel hit Kepler with a pitch, then gave up a single to Jorge Polanco before the Mariners finally got the first out of the inning by nabbing Polanco as he tried to turn a poor relay throw from the outfield into another base.
Markel struck out Jonathan Schoop for the second out and should have been out of the inning when Cron hit a soft fly to center field. But Mallex Smith, recalled Thursday from Triple-A Tacoma, dropped the ball for Seattle’s league-leading 49th error and Kepler added another run to make it 9-1.
Pineda (3-3) didn’t need any additional help in his return to Seattle. Though he was hit hard at times, the former Mariners right-hander struck out six with no walks over seven innings. He scattered five hits, gave up three runs and largely kept the Mariners handcuffed to end their modest two-game win streak.
All of Seattle’s runs came on homers. Smith hit a solo shot in the second, and Ryon Healy and J.P. Crawford connected for back-to-back solo drives in the fifth. It was the first home run with the Mariners for Crawford, one of the team’s top prospects.
Daniel Vogelbach added a three-run homer in the eighth off reliever Tyler Duffey. The Mariners have scored 131 of their 246 runs, 53%, on their league-leading 87 home runs.
For the first time since signing with Minnesota, slugger Nelson Cruz made his return to T-Mobile Park to the delight of the Mariners, who miss the presence of their ebullient former teammate. Cruz did not play because of a recent wrist injury, but is expected in the lineup for the remaining three games of the series, with left-handed pitchers scheduled for Seattle. “I hope he’s not in our nap room,” Mariners manager Scott Servais joked. “I might have to stop in there. He might be in there for all we know.” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said he sees why Cruz was such a favorite in Seattle: “He gets the clubhouse in a lot of ways to come together very, very well. It takes a special guy to do that.”
Cron has a great sense of humor, and it takes one to go through what he’s experiencing. Many fans saw Cron on all the highlights Wednesday after looking the wrong way on a comebacker while playing first base in an 8-7 win over the Angels. He was looking toward second base, where Jonathan Schoop was mimicking fielding the ball even though it went to pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who tossed it past an unaware Cron into foul territory. “I’m sure people are going to keep making fun of me for the rest of my days,” Cron told reporters as teammates shouted “brutal” and “what an idiot” while walking past. Baldelli said he has “been in baseball a very long time and I’ve never seen anything like that in my entire life. I would anticipate in 20 more years, I’m guessing I’d never see that again.”
Twins: LHP Martin Perez (5-1, 3.11 ERA) returns to the mound after his first loss of the season following five consecutive wins.
Mariners: LHP Marco Gonzales (5-2, 3.18 ERA) looks to halt a two-game skid.