Span helps Twins end slump with two RBIs, run-saving throw

SEATTLE -- Knowing how many steps must happen in perfect order to throw out a runner from the outfield, Minnesota's Denard Span wasn't the least bit surprised to see Tug Hulett being sent toward home.

Fortunately for the slumping Twins, Span was perfect.

"I can see why so many third-base coaches send runners," Span said. "The chances of a perfect throw are very slim. It was one of those times it hit [catcher Mike Redmond] right in the chest."

Span drove in two runs early and then came up with perhaps the biggest defensive play this season for the Twins, throwing out the potential tying run at the plate in the bottom of the eighth as the Twins beat the AL-worst Seattle Mariners 6-5 Wednesday, snapping Minnesota's ill-timed losing streak at four.

Facing the possibility of falling even further behind in the playoff chase, the Twins put together a clutch inning of hitting in the top of the eighth, scoring three runs to take the lead. Span then helped preserve the advantage a few minutes later when Minnesota's bullpen did its best to give up the lead.

"I'm just glad we got a victory," Span said. "I don't like this place. I don't know what it is about this place, but they play us tough."

The Mariners gave the Twins fits all season, and won two close ones in the previous two nights. Minnesota entered the day 2 1/2 games behind Boston for the wild card and 2 behind Chicago in the AL Central. Both played later Wednesday.

It appeared the Twins' deficit was going to increase thanks to their shaky bullpen. Minnesota reliever Matt Guerrier got the first out of the eighth, before former Seattle closer Eddie Guardado entered and stumbled. Guardado struck out Jeremy Reed, then allowed consecutive doubles to Kenji Johjima and Jeff Clement to trim the Twins' advantage to 6-5.

Miguel Cairo grounded a single to right field and the pinch-running Hulett was sent home by third base coach Sam Perlozzo. Span fielded the grounder cleanly and threw a perfect strike to Redmond, getting Hulett by a few feet.

Redmond was greeted in the clubhouse afterward by his son, Ryan, who said "dad, way to tackle that guy."

"In my mind, he was going to have to come over me to score that run," Redmond said. "That was obviously a big play just to hold them off."

Joe Nathan then worked the ninth for his 36th save in 40 chances, giving Minnesota just its fifth win this season when trailing after seven innings.

The Twins were in position for Span's throw thanks to an eighth-inning rally off Seattle's bullpen. Fittingly it was Minnesota's Justin Morneau who started the comeback. After Tuesday night's loss, Morneau questioned the energy and enthusiasm of his team.

Trailing 4-3 entering the eighth, Morneau ripped the third pitch from reliever Sean Green (3-4), hitting it so hard that center fielder Wladimir Balentien had no chance to cut off the liner before it rolled to the wall. Randy Ruiz followed with a single to left and Jason Kubel capped his stellar season against Seattle pitching with a bloop double that fell between Balentien and Ichiro Suzuki to score Morneau with the tying run.

After a groundout, Seattle went to left-hander Cesar Jimenez to face Brian Buscher, pinch-hitting for Brendan Harris. But Buscher didn't give Jimenez a chance to get comfortable, lining a single to right to score two more runs.

Buscher had just three hits all season in 30 at-bats against left-handers entering Wednesday.

"That was huge. I'm sure he feels wonderful. I feel good for him," Twins' manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Glen Perkins won his 12th game for Minnesota, working seven innings, but twice gave up leads. His biggest mistake came in the fourth when Jose Lopez hit a two-run homer that barely cleared the 19-foot wall in left, just inside the foul pole. The homer came after Span had given Minnesota a 3-1 lead in the top of the fourth with a ground-rule double that scored a pair.

Perkins (12-3) also gave up a solo homer to Raul Ibanez with two-out in the seventh that put Seattle ahead 4-3.

"Usually I pride myself that if we score some runs, I don't give up the lead. That wasn't the case today," Perkins said. "I'm thankful the guys picked me up and picked the team up."

Game notes
The Twins are halfway through their astonishing 14-game road trip thanks to the Republican National Convention. ... In eight games against Seattle this season, Kubel hit 17-of-28 (.607) with three homers and 10 RBIs. ... Former Seattle Seahawks OL Chris Gray, who retired during training camp because of a back injury, threw out the first pitch. ... Seattle went past 2 million in attendance, reaching the mark for the 12th consecutive season.