M's escape sweep after fielding gaffes cost Twins

SEATTLE -- It's telling of Ron Gardenhire's competitiveness -- and the insecurity of a pennant race -- that Minnesota's usually pleasant, joking manager was just about seething.

And his team leads its division by 4 1/2 games.

A wild pitch, a misplayed fly ball and a fielder's choice by Adam Moore that should have been an inning-ending double play in Seattle's two-run seventh inning sent the last-place Mariners to a 2-1 victory over some tired Twins on Sunday, avoiding a three-game series sweep.

Minnesota gave away a chance to take a season-high lead of 5 1/2 games over the White Sox in the AL Central.

"This is the end of 13 days in a row [of playing] with a lot of travel, late-night travel," Gardenhire said, sounding agitated before he took a plane back home to end this 3-4 road trip that began in Texas. "I think guys are worn down right now."

They sure looked it in the bottom of the seventh.

Seattle, 28 games under .500, won for just the second time in seven games. Baseball's worst offense scored two runs or fewer for the 58th time in 130 games, yet won this time thanks to Minnesota's messy seventh.

Twins starter Carl Pavano (15-10) was cruising through six innings until then. He allowed five hits and the two runs in his seven innings for his third consecutive loss, and second on the road trip.

Luke French (3-4) allowed three hits, including a home run by Michael Cuddyer, in his seven innings. Cuddyer jumped on a 3-0 pitch that floated 84 mph about chest high -- "one of the few pitches French kept up today," Cuddyer said -- and homered for the game's first run in the seventh. His 12th home run of the season soared two rows into the upper deck far beyond left field.

Pavano had held Seattle to just two hits at that point. But then Jose Lopez and Casey Kotchman singled one out into the bottom of the seventh. Pavano's 1-2 pitch to Franklin Gutierrez skipped wide past catcher Drew Butera. The wild pitch advanced the runners.

Gutierrez then hit a fly ball to which left fielder Delmon Young, looking through sunglasses into a hazy glare, reacted slowly. Young's late attempt to lunge at the ball failed as it short-hopped off the grass for an RBI single that scored Lopez.

"Delmon got fooled on it," Gardenhire said. "He broke back."

Young, not known for his fielding, claimed the soft fly was a "line drive with top spin" and said the sun was not a factor.

"It bounced before I could get to it," the left fielder said.

With Kotchman at third and the game now tied, Moore then sent a slow roller to shortstop J.J. Hardy for a force out. But second baseman Hudson, who left Saturday's game because his ankle "locked up," held onto a potential relay throw and double play at first base as Gutierrez slid under him and catcher Moore rumbled down the line. That allowed Kotchman to score the go-ahead run.

"Going into that game, we'd been shut out for 16 innings. Going into the seventh, we knew we needed to do something," Moore said. "The way our pitchers have been throwing the ball lately, we knew if we got two or three, everything would be fine."

Gardenhire thought Hudson blew the double play by getting his feet tied up with second base.

"That's supposed to be turned there," Gardenhire said. "That's normally a double play -- and we didn't turn it."

Hudson said footwork, or his gimpy ankle, was not the issue on the deciding play.

"No, it was just a slow roller and didn't have a good grip on [the ball]," he said. "I didn't want to throw it away."

Hudson left the game in the ninth for pinch-runner Matt Tolbert, following a single off David Aardsma. Seattle's closer then got Cuddyer to hit into a broken-bat double play behind second base for his 25th save in 30 chances.

Gardenhire didn't like that he had to remove Hudson and use one of his three healthy bench players, with Jim Thome's back being sore.

"I'm not going to start him if he's going to be coming out of games," Minnesota's manager said.

Hudson said he will be well enough to start Tuesday against Detroit.

Asked how his ankle was, he said, "About as good as yours."

Game notes
Seattle's Brandon League stranded the tying run at second by retiring pinch-hitter and 2009 AL MVP Joe Mauer to end a scoreless eighth. League, a native of Honolulu, lost a pregame bet with Suzuki on Sunday's Little League World Series final between Waipahu, Hawaii, and Tokyo.