MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Kazuhiro Sasaki had to work harder than normal, so Seattle Mariners manager Lou Piniella thought he should get twice the credit.
"He got two saves," Piniella said. "One in the eighth and one in the ninth."
Sasaki will have to settle for his major league-leading 18th save, but he bailed the Mariners out twice as they beat the Minnesota Twins 5-4 Wednesday for a split in a meeting of baseball's best teams.
Seattle, the AL West leader, is off to the best start in franchise history at 33-12. Minnesota, first in the AL Central, is 30-14, its best start since going 31-13 in 1970.
Sasaki entered the game with the bases loaded in the eighth. Arthur Rhodes (4-0), who got two outs for the win, and Jeff Nelson loaded the bases with one out. Piniella thought Sasaki had the best chance at striking out Jacques Jones.
Sasaki struck out Jones, but not the way he had planned. Jones swung and missed on a 3-and-2 fastball that was high and outside.
"I was trying to throw a strike and the ball went the exact opposite of the way I wanted it to go," Sasaki said. "It ran away from me."
Then Sasaki retired pinch-hitter A.J. Pierzynski on a flyout.
Sasaki, last season's AL Rookie of the Year, pitched a perfect ninth, striking out two, for his 18th save in 20 chances.
"He's got a great split-finger," the Twins' Doug Mientkiewicz said. "I don't think he's overpowering, by any means. But he gets the job done."
David Bell hit a tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning for the Mariners, one day after he just missed hitting a game-winning homer against the Twins.
"He hit four home runs in this series," Piniella said. "Unfortunately, three of them were foul."
Bell nearly hit a grand slam in the seventh inning Tuesday night, but the ball sailed just outside the left-field foul pole as the Twins won 12-11.
"That would have been nice, but you can't dwell on it," Bell said. "If you hit the ball foul, there's usually a reason for it. I was anxious to get back out there today."
Bell got his chance with the score tied at 4-all in the eighth inning. Torii Hunter had hit a three-run homer for the Twins and Luis Rivas had tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the seventh off Freddy Garcia.
Bell homered an inning later off Hector Carrasco (2-1).
Notes: Minnesota LHP Mark Redman was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained muscle in his throwing arm. LHP Brad Thomas was recalled form Double-A New Britain and will start against Oakland in the second game of a doubleheader Saturday. ... The day game drew 26,605 to the Metrodome, leaving the Twins with a 21,042 average for 24 home games, up from an average of 13,093 average for all of last season. ... INF Ed Sprague made his first start for the Mariners, giving John Olerud a day off at 1B. ... Fans were warned in the fifth to not throw objects on the field. The Twins almost had to forfeit a May 2 game against the New York Yankees because fans threw objects at Chuck Knoblauch.
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