MINNEAPOLIS — Seattle closer Carson Smith had a few rough outings in a row before entering Saturday's game with a chance to notch a save.
Even after another blown opportunity, Smith's manager still has faith in him.
Kurt Suzuki hit the winning RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning after two wild pitches by Smith let Minnesota tie the score, and the Twins beat the Mariners 3-2 on Saturday night.
"The inexperience showed up tonight. That's the only way you're going to learn," Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said of his 25-year-old rookie closer. "If we've got a lead tomorrow in the ninth inning, he'll be back out there."
Smith came into the ninth with the Mariners leading 2-1 as Minnesota mustered just four hits and one run through the first eight innings. A pair of wild pitches proved to be the undoing for Smith (1-5), who has nine saves in 11 tries and replaced Fernando Rodney two months ago in the ninth-inning role.
After a leadoff double in the ninth by Miguel Sano, Smith struck out Trevor Plouffe for the first out. One pitch later, a fastball up and in to Torii Hunter hit off the glove of catcher Mike Zunino, allowing pinch runner Shane Robinson to move to third.
Smith retired Hunter and intentionally walked rookie Eddie Rosario, putting the winning run on base with two outs. The second of Smith's two wild pitches proved costly. Robinson scored from third on a Smith slider in the dirt, tying the game 2-2.
Suzuki's single two pitches later ended the game, saddling Smith with the loss. It's his third loss in as many appearances, as he also was on the wrong side of an 8-6 loss to Toronto on July 25 and a 4-3 loss to Arizona two days later.
"I've got to go out there and trust my stuff and pound the zone, get ahead of hitters. I didn't do that," Smith said. "I didn't have the accuracy I needed today to get the job done. That's what it comes down to."
Nelson Cruz led off the sixth with his 28th home run, a full-count pitch from Kyle Gibson off the back wall of the bullpen behind left-center field and gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead.
Mike Montgomery, whose performance the last two months since being summoned from Triple-A Tacoma has been one of the bright spots in a rather dim season for the Mariners, was on track for the win after hitless relief innings by Tom Wilhelmsen and Fernando Rodney.
The Twins loaded the bases on three singles in the third inning, but Joe Mauer grounded into a double play to end that threat. Trevor Plouffe, returning from a three-game absence for the birth of his son, Theodore, scored on a wild pitch in the fourth after a triple.
Gibson bounced back for the Twins from a couple of rough starts out of the All-Star break, but Cruz did enough damage by himself to keep the right-hander from leaving with the lead. Cruz's ground-rule double in the first inning set up Robinson Cano's RBI groundout.
Mariners prospect Ketel Marte, called up this weekend after a roster shakeup that sent three key players away in separate trades, picked up his first major league hit on an infield single.
McClendon was ejected in the ninth inning by first base umpire Mike Muchlinski for arguing a check swing by Suzuki.
Cruz stretched his hitting streak to 12 straight games, his longest since May 2014. He's batting .407 during that stretch with seven home runs. His 27 homers through the end of July were the 10th-most in Mariners history at that mark and the most since Bret Boone's 28 in 2003.
Cano returned as the DH from a three-game absence due to a strained abdominal muscle. McClendon said Cano will be back at 2B next week sometime during the series at Colorado.
Mariners: Hisashi Iwakuma (2-2, 5.10 ERA) will make his ninth start of the season in the series finale Sunday. He's coming off his worst performance of his injury-limited year, with 10 hits and six runs allowed Tuesday against Arizona.
Twins: Mike Pelfrey (5-7, 3.92 ERA) will take the mound, seeking his first win since throwing eight scoreless innings June 7 against Milwaukee.