SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez stood next to Jason Vargas as the left-hander leaned on the dugout railing, hoping the Mariners' bullpen could preserve the gem he had tossed for 6 1/3 innings on Friday night.
But a sight all too common for Hernandez unfolded in a disastrous seventh inning for the Mariners, as the two witnessed another solid outing by a Seattle starter fall by the wayside in a 3-2 loss to the Twins in front of 22,492 at Safeco Field.
After 25 innings of scoreless baseball, the Twins finally came alive offensively in the seventh. Down, 2-0, Chris Parmelee chased Vargas with a one-out double. Tom Wilhelmsen came on in relief, and that's when the wheels fell off.
The righty could not locate the strike zone and walked the first two batters he faced to load the bases. But it appeared Wilhelmsen would escape damage, when he barehanded a grounder up the middle. In a moment of confusion, however, he opted not to throw home for the forceout.
Instead, he sailed a rushed throw wide of second base. Dustin Ackley made a nice play to keep the ball from going into the outfield, but the Twins had escaped an inning-ending double play, scored a run and still had the bases full.
"The last freakin' thing I heard was, 'Go four on a comebacker to you," Wilhelmsen said. "I just had a brain fart, you know, and a pretty important one. Cost the ballgame."
The Twins tacked on another two runs in the inning and took the lead for good, 3-2. It took three Seattle relievers to get out of the seventh, and Wilhelmsen (1-1) was credited for the loss after walking two in just one-third of an inning.
Seattle broke through first with a four-hit fifth inning. Jesus Montero led off the frame with a double off the top of the left-center-field fence. Kyle Seager followed with a double of his own to score Montero.
After an out, Mike Carp got in on the action, as he smashed a double to right field. It appeared Ryan Doumit would have a play on the ball, but it sailed over his outstretched glove and Seager scored to extend the Mariners' lead to 2-0.
It was the first time Seattle recorded three doubles in an inning since the fourth inning of a game against San Diego on May 21, 2010.
But outside of the fifth, Twins starter Carl Pavano pitched an efficient game, scattering eight hits over six innings. The veteran righty didn't walk a batter and threw just 69 pitches to improve his record to 2-2.
"I had Carl over in Cleveland, he knows how to pitch," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He knows how to cut the ball, sink the ball, he has good command. He's a smart veteran pitcher and he pitched a good ballgame tonight."
Vargas also pitched wonderfully and found himself in just one jam on the night, as Minnesota runners occupied first and second with just one out in the sixth. But Alex Liddi made a nice charging play from third and Vargas induced a lazy flyout to shortstop to end the threat.
"Vargas pitched really well and he went deep in the game, and we were able to get into him and get into their bullpen," Pavano said. "That one mistake ended up giving us three runs, or else the outcome is a lot different."
But Vargas was left with nothing to show for a dominant outing after the bullpen's struggles, and Seattle's losing streak hit seven games -- with many of those losses close affairs.
"That's kind of a double-edged sword," Wedge said. "You know that you're in every game, you have a chance to win every game. I keep talking about that hump that we've got to get over. When you get late in ballgames, that's where experience takes over. We're trying to get these young men to the point to where they're comfortable in those situations to where they can execute or produce."