SEATTLE (AP) — Yohan Pino has the game ball to prove he belongs in the majors, even if he doesn’t have a big league job anymore.
The Minnesota Twins rookie right-hander earned his first major league victory — beating the Seattle Mariners 4-2 Thursday night in his fifth big league appearance — and was told after the game that he’s being sent back to the minors to make room for LHP Kris Johnson to start Friday at Colorado.
Throwing 100 pitches, Pino (1-2) allowed one run and seven hits in his five innings, walked two and struck out four.
“I have to go down and do my job and try to get back,” Pino said.
His efforts didn’t go unnoticed.
“This works out for us, roster-wise … but Pino was fabulous,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We gave him the game ball for his first major league win. We saw he had to battle for it. He made it through the fifth, which was huge.”
Kendrys Morales had the big hit, a two-run double in the fifth inning that gave the Twins a 4-1 lead.
Morales, who played for the Mariners last season, came up with two outs and runners on first and second. He lined his double over center fielder James Jones’ extended glove. Both runners scored without a throw.
Glen Perkins worked the ninth to pick up his 22nd save in 25 opportunities.
Tom Wilhelmsen (1-2) made his first major league start after 191 relief appearances for the Mariners, never pitching more than three innings in his career. He worked 2 2-3 innings, allowing two runs, one hit and three walks with three strikeouts.
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon used six relievers to cover the nine innings after Taijuan Walker, who would have started, was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma to keep him in rotation during the All-Star break. The decision also gave staff ace Felix Hernandez an extra day’s rest to be available to start Friday against AL West-leading Oakland A’s.
McClendon also made his decision knowing his bullpen had a 0.77 ERA with 63 strikeouts in the previous 18 games.
Wilhelmsen had little trouble through the first two innings, throwing just 27 pitches. But he labored in the third, issuing a one-out walk to Sam Fuld before Brian Dozier singled.
With Kurt Suzuki at the plate, the runners pulled off a successful double steal. Catcher Mike Zunino’s throw to third sailed into left field allowing Fuld to score and Dozier to reach third. Dozier scored on Suzuki’s sacrifice fly to center.
Kyle Seager, heading to the All-Star game Tuesday, had given the Mariners a 1-0 lead with his 14th home run in the second inning. Seager has a team-leading 60 RBIs. He is hitting .352 in 45 games at Safeco Field this season.
Pino twice survived bases-loaded, two-out threats. In the third with a 3-2 count on Corey Hart, he threw a 79 mph slider that Hart chased to end it.
“I just want him to put the ball in play. I don’t want to walk him,” Pino said. “I throw it over the plate. Whatever he wants to do.”
In the fifth, Hart again came up with the bases loaded and Pino induced him to ground out weakly to first, as the ball spun around the infield grass and was chased down by first baseman Chris Parmelee.
That continued a poor offensive trend for the Mariners. They are just 2 for 33 with runners in scoring position over the past seven games.
“We just haven’t got that big hit to put us over the top yet,” McClendon said. “Listen, it’s hard to win ball games at this level on a nightly basis.”
Seattle reliever Danny Farquhar left with two outs in the fifth after Suzuki and Parmelee singled. Joe Beimel entered and was victimized by Morales.
In the seventh, the Mariners loaded the bases again, with one out. Endy Chavez scored on Seager’s sacrifice fly to left, but the rally ended when James Jones was ruled out trying to advance to third after a video review.
“I was not only eating the (sunflower) seeds, I was eating the bag,” Gardenhire said.
NOTES: Colorado 1B Justin Morneau, who played 11 seasons for the Twins before being traded to Pittsburgh last August, will be part of the All-Star game festivities next week in Minneapolis. He was selected to compete in the Home Run Derby, which he won in 2008. … Wilhelmsen’s start after 191 appearances is the third-most in club history behind Luis DeLeon (206) and Dwayne Henry (225). … Cano is hitting .484 over his last 16 games against the Twins. … The Mariners’ Michael Saunders held his side after checking his swing in the eighth. He was replaced by Dustin Ackley.
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