Until Twins designated hitter Ryan Doumit ripped a solo home run off him in the seventh inning Sunday, it seemed the biggest challenge for Mariners starter Hector Noesi was presented by his own catcher John Jaso and home-plate umpire Mike Everitt in a third-inning at-bat.
With Noesi facing shortstop Jamey Carroll and already holding a 4-0 lead, a pitch in the dirt momentarily got away from Jaso. But just as the catcher retrieved the ball and threw it back to Noesi, Everitt pulled out another ball and fired it back to the mound simultaneously.
Thus Noesi found himself playing dodgeball momentarily, avoiding both incoming tosses. He survived sufficiently to notch his second win of the season with seven innings of one-run ball.
"Never in my life," Noesi laughed when asked about seeing double on the return throw. "I was running away."
The Twins didn't have much luck hitting Noesi either as they totaled just four hits in his seven frames and five for the game, though two of those were solo home runs by Doumit.
The Mariners improved to 13-17 as they won the series 2-1 after snapping a seven-game losing streak on Saturday. This time the bats broke out early, Seattle scoring four times in the first two frames against Nick Blackburn.
Seattle's early offensive fireworks -- which also included Dustin Ackley's first triple of the season -- staked Noesi to a five-run lead after four innings. The 25-year-old took advantage by throwing seven strong frames as he improved to 2-3 with a 6.30 ERA in six starts since coming from the Yankees in the Montero trade for Michael Pineda.
Scott Ullger, the Twins bench coach who filled in for manager Ron Gardenhire over the three-game series, said Noesi reminded him of another young Yankees hurler.
"It was my first impression," Ullger said. "He reminded me of Ivan Nova -- smoothness to his delivery, had a good breaking ball, good changeup, moved the fastball in and out, and we really couldn't get anything mounted against him."
The Mariners, on the flip side, struck quickly against Blackburn. Montero, starting at designated hitter, ripped a two-run double in the first and Seager drove him home with a single for his 10th RBI in the past five games as the Mariners jumped to a 3-0 lead.
Carp, playing his sixth game since coming back from a sprained shoulder, added another run with a leadoff blast in the second off a first-pitch curve.
"I was just looking out over the plate," Carp said. "I knew he was going to throw a lot of strikes, so I was going to be real aggressive. I saw it up, it stayed up and it was good. That was everything I want to do. Usually early on I'm not going to swing at something like that, but I saw it, stayed back and followed through. That was a good sign."
Ackley, who hit seven triples last year in 90 games as a rookie, picked up his first three-bagger with one out in the fourth and scored on a sacrifice fly by Brendan Ryan for a 5-0 advantage.
"If Ack keeps hitting triples, it makes my job easier, just trying to get the ball into the outfield," said Ryan, who has two sacrifice flies in two games since moving into the No. 2 spot in the order.
That 5-0 lead proved to be a mountain the Twins couldn't overcome. Minnesota had totaled just nine hits over its previous four games -- the lowest four-game total in modern MLB history -- and the Twins added just five more Sunday.
Noesi has been inconsistent in his young Mariners tenure, throwing eight scoreless innings against the A's in his second start, but going 0-3 with a 12.00 ERA in his other four outings heading into Sunday.
Manager Eric Wedge felt Noesi had been far better in his last two starts, however, and he carried that over to a gem against the struggling Twins, who fell to 7-20.
Noesi gave up just three singles and two walks in the first six innings before Doumit led off the seventh with a home run. The Twins had touched second base just once in the prior six frames when Doumit singled and Chris Parmelee walked with two out in the fourth. But Noesi got third baseman Danny Valencia to pop out to short to end that threat.
"I felt like he just continued what we'd seen the last couple starts, which is doing a good job commanding his fastball, reaching out front and really finishing off his pitches and then using all his secondary stuff," Wedge said. "I think Jaso did a nice job with him back there today behind the plate. They worked very well together."