SEATTLE — In his first season with Minnesota, Martin Perez has rewritten the scouting report of his tendencies on the mound.
By doing so, he’s become a challenge for batters to solve, especially for teams that saw plenty of Perez when he was with Texas.
The Seattle Mariners became the latest to struggle against Perez’s new approach. The left-hander rebounded from his first loss of the season to overpower Seattle into the seventh inning, Max Kepler drove in three and the Twins beat the Mariners 7-1 Friday night for their fourth straight victory.
Perez (6-1) was knocked around for three earned runs and lasted just five innings in his last outing. But the lefty became the third Minnesota pitcher with six victories, joining Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi, as he worked free from a jam in the first inning and avoided trouble the rest of the way.
“I think I changed my plan when I go to the mound. That’s all about it,” Perez said. “The year before I just throw two-seam (fastballs) and down-and-away changeup. Now I’ve got my cutter in, I’m pounding in with my fastball and then come back with my changeup down-and-away. I think how I move the ball around the plate is good right now.”
Perez allowed five hits and struck out seven while matching a season high with four walks over 6 2/3 innings. Seattle’s run came when Edwin Encarnacion’s two-out RBI single in the sixth inning barely cleared the glove of shortstop Jorge Polanco. The Mariners had a chance to get to Perez early but left runners at second and third in the first inning after consecutive strikeouts of Domingo Santana and Ryon Healy.
In his seven starts since joining the Twins rotation, Perez has a 2.01 ERA in 44 2/3 innings.
“It was a good consistent tight zone behind the plate and it forced Martin to keep the ball on the plate and I think he’s capable of doing that,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “His ability to command all of his pitches, I consider him not just above average but exceptional in that regard. He’ll be able to work under any circumstances that he has to and he was able to do that again tonight.”
Seattle starter Marco Gonzales (5-3) lost his third straight decision. He retired the first seven before Ehire Adrianza’s solo home run in the third inning. The Twins battered Gonzales for five runs and seven hits in the fourth and fifth innings. Kepler had the last of four straight hits in the fourth inning to drive in a run and added a two-out, two-run single in the fifth inning.
The five earned runs were a season-high allowed by Gonzales.
“We’ve got a long season to go. I don’t think there’s any panic, we have a lot of baseball to play,” Gonzales said. “I’m not looking at April success versus May success, I’m looking at the next start and how I can get better.”
Encarnacion hit the 350th double of his career in the first inning, although the ground-rule double bouncing over the wall ended up costing Seattle a run. He joined Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera as only active players with at least 350 doubles and at least 350 home runs.
Adrianza’s home run extended Minnesota’s streak of consecutive games with a homer to 12, its longest of the season. It’s the longest streak for the Twins since homering in 16 straight games in September 2017.
Seattle made a flurry of roster moves mostly to bolster arms in the bullpen. The Mariners recalled right-hander Matt Festa and selection righty Ryan Garton from Triple-A Tacoma. Starter Erik Swanson was optioned to Tacoma and left-handed specialist Zac Rosscup was designated for assignment. The move to option Swanson leaves a hole in Seattle’s rotation, and manager Scott Servais was unsure whether it would be a bullpen day or if a starter would be called up from the minors the next time Swanson was scheduled to pitch.
Seattle also claimed RHP Andrew Moore off waivers from San Francisco and designated for assignment RHP Nick Rumbelow. Moore was assigned to Double-A Arkansas.
Twins: Berrios (6-2) had a five-game win streak snapped in his last start against the Angels when he allowed a career-high 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings. Berrios is 1-2 in three career starts vs. Seattle.
Mariners: Wade LeBlanc (2-0) is expected to be activated off the injured list and make his first start in more than a month. LeBlanc suffered a strained oblique on April 12.