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SEA@MIN: Saunders hammers a solo blast to right

MINNEAPOLIS -- One pitch spelled doom for Mariners rookie Roenis Elias on Saturday night, as Twins second baseman Brian Dozier ripped a three-run homer that sent Seattle to its fourth straight loss, this one a 4-3 setback at Target Field.

But despite its costly impact, the Mariners insisted the fifth-inning curveball Dozier drove over the left-field fence was not a bad pitch, just good hitting by the red-hot second baseman, who also homered in Friday's series opener.

"Really it wasn't a mistake; it was a pretty darn good pitch that the guy hit out," Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon said. "It's tough, but that's baseball. I thought [Elias] threw exceptionally well. Hats off to Dozier, because he hit a pretty good pitch."

Dozier went down low to dig out the 0-1 curveball from Elias, which left catcher Mike Zunino shaking his head. The night before, the Mariners were surprised how the 27-year-old was able to drive a high fastball from Chris Young over the same fence in that 5-4 win.

"One night we threw him a ball that felt like it was neck level, and he stays on top of it and hits it out," Zunino said. "The next night you throw one down, and he was able to drop the head and elevate it. Sometimes when guys are seeing the ball well, you just have to tip your cap to them."

Dozier, the Twins' leadoff hitter, has 11 home runs and leads the American League with 40 runs scored. He went 2-for-3 with two runs and three RBIs on Saturday and has now hit .361 with four home runs in nine career games against Seattle.

Elias gave up six hits and four runs over seven innings, with a walk and four strikeouts, as his record evened at 3-3 with a 3.88 ERA.

"He has pretty good stuff," Dozier said. "He's a young guy with three good pitches. He throws his curveball hard and throws his changeup at 87-88, which is hard for a lefty. But everything is pretty firm. The pitch was actually down in the zone."

The Mariners went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, dropping them to with just one hit in their past 26 chances. By contrast, the Twins went 2-for-4 in that situation, including Dozier's winning blow with runners on first and third.

"It's a lot easier to hit with runners in scoring position, especially with a runner at third and less than two outs," Dozier said. "You're green light and ready to fire at anything over the plate."

Seattle's bats struggled again as the Mariners were held to two hits over six innings by Twins starter Samuel Deduno, who picked up his first win of the year.

Michael Saunders did rip a 403-foot solo home run off reliever Jared Burton in the eighth to cut the lead to 4-3, and Corey Hart followed with a two-out double. But Burton got out of that jam by striking out Kyle Seager.

The Mariners fell to 20-22 and will try to avoid a series sweep with Felix Hernandez taking the mound Sunday afternoon at Target Field.

The Twins pushed a run across against Elias in the first inning on an RBI double by Kurt Suzuki, but Seattle rookie center fielder James Jones turned things around in the third with a triple that scored Brad Miller and Jones' scoring on a sacrifice fly to right by Saunders for a 2-1 lead.

Jones has hit safely in all nine games he has started for Seattle, one shy of Edgar Martinez's club record of starts with a hit to open a career.

The triple and RBI were both firsts for Jones, who has hit .333 with eight runs scored since being called up from Triple-A Tacoma on May 5.

Robinson Cano beat out an infield single on a slow roller to third in the sixth inning and has reached base in 25 straight games, one shy of his career best and the longest current such streak in the Majors.

But the Mariners could not string together enough to overcome Dozier's blast.

"We didn't get that big hit the last three or four games," McClendon said. "We just haven't gotten that one hit that puts us over the top. But guys are working at it, they're coming out for extra work, they're doing everything we've asked them to do. In the end it'll pay off, and we'll get better."

Though Deduno came in with just a 14-15 record and 4.01 ERA in his career, he has been tough on the Mariners, posting a 3-1 record and 1.38 ERA through four starts.

The Twins have won five of their past six games and are 21-20 after clinching a third straight series victory.

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