Maeda’s Strikeout Total Matched a Season High; the Twins’ 6-3 Win over the Mariners

AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Kenta Maeda throw to a Seattle Mariners batter during the second inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in Seattle.

SEATTLE (AP) — Max Kepler scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball in the eighth inning and Minnesota pitchers struck out 14 in the Twins’ 6-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday night.

Kepler scored from third when a pitch from reliever Andrés Muñoz (2-3) got past catcher Tom Murphy, breaking a 3-3 tie. Kepler also hit a solo homer in the fifth inning off Luis Castillo, and has a six-game hitting streak.

“I’m just trying to grind out at-bats and keep the line moving,” Kepler said. “See a couple pitches or a lot of pitches from the starters to get them out of the game early. I think Castillo was at 85 pitches in the fourth, which was a great team effort offensively. I think that’s just been a collective approach lately.”

Ryan Jeffers put the Twins ahead with a second-inning single, and rookie Edouard Julien and Kepler made it 3-0 with home runs in the fifth inning.

Julien had two hits, and now has six multi-hit performances in his past seven games.

The Mariners tied it with a pair of homers of their own. Tom Murphy connected off Twins starter Kenta Maeda in the sixth inning, and Eugenio Suárez tied it with a two-run shot in the seventh off Griffin Jax.

Alex Kirillof hit a two-run homer in the ninth against Devin Sweet, in the 26-year-old pitcher’s major league debut.

Emilio Pagan (4-1) was the winner after pitching a perfect eighth inning. Jhoan Duran pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 16th save. Duran’s fastest pitch came in at 104.8 mph, a new personal-best.

“It keeps going into space, outer space,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I don’t know where it’s going to stop. You see it throughout the league as a whole, where it’s gone from one level to the next level when it comes to velocity, but he’s living on his own planet at this point.”

Maeda had nine strikeouts for Minnesota over 6 1/3 innings, and gave up just three hits.

“It’s the best stuff I’ve ever seen him have,” Baldelli said. “He’s doing that on five days of rest right now since his last outing, but when he goes out there and he’s popping 86 mph splits and controlling these pitches the way he wants, the results speak for themselves.”

Maeda’s strikeout total matched a season high. Maeda also struck out nine on April 4 in Miami and July 4 against Kansas City.

“I’ve been searching for ways to get better, obviously,” Maeda said. “But the preparation that I put in this week, especially playing catch, you know, tinkering with things here and there, I think I found the right groove.”

AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Kenta Maeda warms up in the bullpen before facing the Seattle Mariners in a baseball game, Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in Seattle.

Castillo gave up six hits and three earned earned over six innings, and had a season-high 11 strikeouts as the Mariners matched the Twins with 14 whiffs.

“That’s about as good a stuff as we’ve seen from Luis Castillo in quite a while, really from the first inning on,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Oftentimes it takes him a couple innings to get into the game and into his stuff, but that was not the case tonight. I thought he was really sharp.”