SEATTLE – Felix Hernandez was just slightly off his game early in his start against Minnesota.
That was just enough of an opening to allow the Twins to hang on to a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
Liriano (3-5) was nearly as stingy as his no-hitter May 3 against the White Sox. He allowed three singles, walked one and had a season-high nine strikeouts. Matt Capps got the final three outs for his sixth save in eight opportunities.
"I think it (going against Hernandez) helped me stay focused, taking it one pitch at a time, one inning at a time," Liriano said.
Hernandez (4-4), last season's Cy Young Award winner, allowed three hits and two runs in eight innings. He walked three and struck out nine. His problem was that he couldn't settle in early. He opened the game by issuing a four-pitch walk to Denard Span. Matt Tolbert's grounder forced Span at second. Then Hernandez walked Jason Kubel.
Justin Morneau bounced out to first, advancing both runners. Cuddyer followed with his first-pitch, two-run single.
"I don't know what happened in the first," Hernandez said. "I was wild and too quick and I made one mistake to Cuddyer and the two runs. That was it.
"It happens a lot of times in the first inning," he said. "I don't know what is going on in the first inning all the time but I got to figure out something to stay close and throw strikes."
That first inning was the time the Twins needed to reach Hernandez. After that, he was back to his normal dominant self.
Hernandez, who needed just six pitches to retire the side in both the second and sixth innings, finished strong. He allowed only one hit after one out in the fourth and struck out seven from the fifth through the eighth.
"It's tough when you go up against Hernandez. You all saw how nasty he is," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We just held on after that. There were not a lot of hits with their guy pitching. You hope that Liriano can match him and he did."
The Twins built some mild threats. In the fourth, they had runners on second and third with two outs but Hernandez struck out Rene Rivera. In the fifth with runners on first and second with one out, Hernandez induced Kubel to hit a one-hopper back to him. He turned it into a double play.
The Mariners, held to just one hit by Liriano through the first four innings, mounted a two-out rally in the fifth. Liriano started it by hitting Brendan Ryan in the leg. Michael Saunders singled to center as Ryan raced to third on the hit-and-run. Ichiro Suzuki followed with a lazy RBI single to center.
The Mariners held a moment of silence before the game in honor of Twins Hall of Famer Killebrew, who died Tuesday morning. The club also put together a scoreboard video tribute to him during the third inning. The Twins hung his No. 3 jersey in the clubhouse all afternoon then brought it down to the dugout for the game.
"There was a lot going on today," Gardenhire said. "It was very emotional before the game and very emotional after the game. Tonight was kind of special for a lot of reasons."
Of the 41 games the Mariners have played, 21 have been decided by two runs or fewer. They are 7-9 in 1-run games.
The Mariners threatened in the ninth off Capps. Miguel Olivo walked with one out. Jack Cust then bounced to third baseman Danny Valencia, who threw to Alexi Casilla covering second for the force. The throw was low and Olivo appeared to beat it. But umpire Jerry Meals called him out.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge argued with some vigor and that earned an ejection.
"I thought Miguel beat it," Wedge said. "It was a big play late in the ball game. Who knows what happens from there. It gets us another man down the line and we got a man in scoring position. It's a totally different game but that's the way it goes."
Casilla said Olivo was out "because he stepped on my foot." And his foot covered the bag.
Pinch hitter Adam Kennedy then ended the threat with a groundout to second.
Notes: The Twins staff hustled to order a patch reflecting Killebrew's No. 3 and had them sewn on all the uniforms right sleeves before taking the field. "It's fitting. If we all wear No. 3 that would be fitting, too. But that's not possible," Cuddyer said. "But to be able to wear the patch to remember him is the least we can do." ... CF Franklin Gutierrez will be activated to the 25-man roster for Wednesday's game and RHP Tom Wilhelmsen will be optioned out to make room. Gutierrez had been on rehab all season because of stomach gastritis.