On a night Felix Hernandez and Francisco Liriano engaged in a pitcher's duel for much of the evening, a pair of first-inning walks by the Mariners ace wound up being the difference in a 2-1 loss to Minnesota at Safeco Field.
The Twins snapped a nine-game losing streak by pushing across a pair of runs on a single by Michael Cuddyer -- the game's fifth batter -- after Hernandez uncharacteristically issued free passes to two of the first three batters he faced.
Thus on a night the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner surrendered just three hits, he suffered a frustrating defeat that evened his record at 4-4 even while lowering his ERA to 3.23.
Hernandez wound up going eight innings before turning over the 2-1 deficit to embattled closer Brandon League, who walked Cuddyer, but finished unscathed after four straight rocky outings.
For the Mariners, who had snapped a six-game losing streak Monday, it was another case of offensive shortcomings as Liriano held them to just three hits and a single run while striking out nine in his seven innings of duty.
Hernandez, whose season-high for walks is three, matched that number Tuesday while striking out nine himself. But it was the two bases on balls in the first to Denard Span and Jason Kubel that cost him when -- following a fielder's choice and a little nubber back to the mound by Justin Morneau that advanced runners to second and third -- Cuddyer drove in a pair with a single to center.
Hernandez wiggled out of similar trouble in the fourth when a single, walk and passed ball had runners perched on second and third, but he struck out catcher Rene Rivera to escape that jam.
Alexi Casilla was hit in the back foot by a Hernandez pitch while trying to bunt in the fifth, bringing Eric Wedge out to argue with homeplate umpire CB Bucknor. Casilla then reached second when Matt Tolbert grounded to Brendan Ryan as Casilla broke on a hit-and-run, with Ryan trying -- too late -- to flip to second to get the runner and allowing both runners to be safe.
But Hernandez got out of that trouble as well by inducing Jason Kubel to ground sharply back to the mound for a 1-6-3 double play.
The Mariners couldn't make much noise against Liriano, however. Liriano, who lugged a 2-5 record and 7.07 ERA into the game despite a no-hitter on May 3 against the White Sox, gave up only a first-inning single by Chone Figgins until the Mariners finally got to him for a run in the fifth.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge was ejected in the bottom of the ninth after arguing a force out at second on Miguel Olivo, whose slide at second was perilously close to beating the throw from third baseman Danny Valencia (though replays would later confirm that Olivo was out) that resulted in Seattle's second out of the inning. Capps then retired pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy on the next pitch for the final out.