SEATTLE (AP) -- Hobbled by a strained muscle in his left thigh, Ruben Sierra is determined to make a difference as the Seattle Mariners try to make a playoff push.
Sierra came off the bench as a pinch-hitter and hit a tiebreaking two-run single with two outs in the eighth inning as the Mariners handed the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins their fifth consecutive defeat, 5-2 on Monday.
"It was a big hit," he said. "Thank God that I came through in the condition I'm in right now."
The Mariners stayed six games behind Oakland in the AL West and closed within two games of Anaheim in the wild-card race.
Sierra said the Mariners couldn't worry about what the Athletics, winners of 19 in a row, are doing.
"We have to worry about ourselves and start winning some ballgames," he said. "By the time we play against them, that's the time we have to see who is who."
The Mariners have six games left with Oakland and six with Anaheim.
Sierra singled to right off LaTroy Hawkins after Bret Boone singled and Edgar Martinez walked to open the inning against Johan Santana (8-6). After John Olerud's groundout moved Boone to third and pinch-runner Luis Ugueto to second, Sierra singled.
Desi Relaford followed with a double to score pinch-runner Charles Gipson from first.
Sierra batted for the first time since coming out of last Tuesday night's game in Minnesota when he aggravated the injury he sustained Aug. 19 in Detroit.
"I'm just trying to get healthy as fast as I can," said Sierra, who was a key player for the Mariners when Martinez was out from April 12-June 14 with a ruptured tendon his left leg.
Sierra thinks he can be a factor for the Mariners in their final 24 games. He's hitting .281 with 12 home runs and 58 RBIs.
"It's getting better, much better," he said. "I think I'm going to be soon in the lineup. I'm going to be playing somewhere. I just don't want to get the injury back."
Mariners manager Lou Piniella pushed the right button when he brought Sierra in as a pinch-hitter for Dan Wilson in the eighth. Sierra was 1-for-12 as a pinch-hitter before Monday's game.
"It wasn't a hunch," Piniella said. "Ruben's certainly capable of driving the ball in the gap the way he did. He's done it many times before. The key was getting him healthy and able to pinch-hit. He can help us down the road in September."
First base was open when Sierra was summoned into the game. Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire didn't consider walking him intentionally because the Mariners had Ichiro Suzuki available as a pinch-hitter. Suzuki wasn't in the lineup Monday.
"The choice was walking him and probably facing Ichiro with the bases loaded and I didn't like that idea," Gardenhire said.
The Twins, who are on their longest losing streak of the season, still lead the division by 12 games over Chicago.
"It was a good game," Gardenhire said. "We've been in a lot of these lately. They are just not going our way right now."
Arthur Rhodes (8-3), who struck out the side in the eighth, got the victory. Kazuhiro Sasaki pitched the ninth for his 34th save in 39 opportunities.
The Mariners tied the score at 2 in the fourth on four consecutive hits off Eric Milton to open the inning. Martinez and Olerud delivered RBI singles after Carlos Guillen singled and Boone doubled.
The Twins took a 2-0 lead on sacrifice flies by Corey Koskie in the first and David Ortiz in the third. Jacques Jones scored both runs after opening the innings with doubles.
Joel Pineiro started for Seattle and pitched seven innings, giving up two runs and seven hits.
"The pitching was excellent," Piniella said. "Pineiro pitched himself out of some tough situations. He really battles, that kid."
Milton came off the disabled list Monday and was taken out of the game after Olerud's hit.
Milton, a 13-game winner who was disabled Aug. 7 with a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee, pitched three plus innings and allowed two runs on six hits, with no walks and two strikeouts.
Notes: Seattle's Mark McLemore will have an MRI on his sore right elbow Tuesday. The Mariners said they will learn the results of the test Wednesday. McLemore was scratched from the Mariners' lineup after hyperextending his elbow while making a diving catch against Kansas City on Saturday. ... The Twins are watching Milton carefully. He was taken out after 54 pitches, 41 for strikes. ... Jones had his team-leading 47th multihit game.
Box score on Page 20A.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.