MINNEAPOLIS -- First, his stomach. Then, the swing. Franklin Gutierrez is finally feeling better.
Erik Bedard threw six shutout innings and Gutierrez hit his first home run of the season, propelling the Seattle Mariners past the slump-ridden Minnesota Twins for a 3-0 victory on Wednesday afternoon."I feel good. I just needed time," said Gutierrez, who joined the lineup last week after a mysterious, frustrating bout with stomach problems that sapped his energy last season and lingered into this spring.David Pauley tossed two scoreless innings in relief, Brandon League pitched a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 15 attempts and the Twins managed only seven singles on their way to their fifth shutout this season. They have the worst record in the majors at 16-32 and the fewest runs with 164, an average of 3.42 per game.Bedard (3-4) had a lot to do with that, stretching his scoreless innings streak to 15. After missing last year with a bad shoulder, the Canadian left-hander has bounced back in a big way on his $1 million, one-year contract."His breaking ball was snapping as hard as anybody's we've seen this year," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.Bedard allowed six hits and one walk while striking out four."Ah, I've felt the same all the way the whole season," he said. "It's just now the results are getting better."Because of his injuries, Bedard was limited to 30 major league starts over a 19-month span of regular season games starting in September 2007. But in his ninth start this season, he lowered his ERA to 3.48. He has 45 strikeouts and 18 walks in 51 2/3 innings."He's just been very consistent with his fastball and his breaking ball and developing more confidence in his changeup," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said, praising the tempo Bedard kept on the mound. "He has a great heartbeat out there."The Mariners have barely been more potent than the sputtering Twins this season with 176 runs -- an average of 3.59 per game -- but their starting pitching has been nearly impeccable. Pauley and Aaron Laffey have been solid as setup men. With four hitless innings in a row, League has recovered from a rough stretch earlier this month when he took the loss in four straight appearances including three blown saves."We're excited. This is fun baseball right now," shortstop Brendan Ryan said.After their six-game winning streak was stopped the night before, the Mariners got right back on track before a 10-game homestand against three American League East foes starting with the New York Yankees. That's the kind of steadiness that Wedge is seeking from his team, which is right in the race in the mediocre AL West."When you have a couple games in a row and you get the momentum on your side, you just feel like every game you can win. It's a good feeling," Bedard said.Brian Duensing (2-5) saved Minnesota's depleted bullpen again by pitching seven innings the day after Nick Blackburn's complete-game victory, yielding only four hits, but two of them were costly -- and crushed.After Gutierrez walked to start the second inning, Adam Kennedy drove a double down the right-field line that eluded diving first baseman Justin Morneau's glove and was difficult for Jason Kubel to corral in the corner.Gutierrez scored, and Kennedy cruised home two batters later on Brendan Ryan's single to center past a drawn-in infield to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead. Gutierrez then led off the fourth with a long fly off an 0-1 changeup that sliced through a steady wind and reached the left-field seats.Gutierrez, who reached base three times, was a reliable regular in the outfield for the Mariners the past two seasons and won his first Gold Glove in 2010. But his production fell off last summer after he started feeling sick. Gutierrez finally made his debut last week, and he's 5 for 21 with three runs and two RBIs since his return.He said he felt tired the first few games."But now I feel like I'm getting to the point where I was before," Gutierrez said, adding: I'm just trying to be relaxed. I'm not going to do a lot of things in one at-bat. I'm trying to play step by step. I know it takes time."
Wedge gave Justin Smoak a mini-break by using him as the DH. Kennedy played 1B instead. ... Duensing struck out five and walked two. He has not won since April 23. ... With Ichiro Suzuki, Chone Figgins and Smoak producing little this series at the top, Ryan gave the bottom of the lineup a boost. In his past six games, he's 12 for 21 with two doubles, a triple and four RBIs.
38,860 (98.4% full) - % is based on regular season capacity
59 degrees, overcast
Home Plate - Alfonso Marquez, First Base - Ed Hickox, Second Base - Ed Rapuano, Third Base - Brian Onora
With their shutout of the Twins today, the Mariners are now 7-1 over their last 8 games. During that span, they have a team ERA of 1.63, thrown 3 shutouts as a team, and have better than 8 strikeouts per 9 innings.