Houston’s Big Seventh Inning Dooms Mariners, 7-1
SEATTLE (AP) — Houston manager A.J. Hinch warns that "rough patches" on offense don't stick around the Astros too long.
After scoring just six runs total in its past three games, Houston put away the Mariners with a six-run seventh inning, leading to a 7-1 victory Wednesday night.
Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (2-0) struck out five, ending a string of double-digit strikeout games at three. He gave up just an unearned run in his fourth consecutive seven-inning start to begin his career in the American League.
The Astros sent 11 batters to the plate in their biggest-scoring inning of the season off Mariners starter Mike Leake and relievers Nick Vincent and James Pazos.
The first five Houston batters reached against Leake (2-1), starting with Josh Reddick's leadoff walk. After Yuli Gurriel hit a double in the left-field corner, Marwin Gonzalez followed by lining Leake's first pitch to center field for a two-run single that gave the Astros a 3-1 lead.
"As the game went on, our at-bats got better and better, which is encouraging," Hinch said. "We have an explosive offense."
Brian McCann doubled to deep right center, and Houston grabbed a 4-1 lead on a fielding error by right fielder Mitch Haniger, who got a late jump on Evan Gattis' shallow fly ball.
Two batters later, George Springer hit a two-run double off Vincent that caromed off the right-center wall, and Houston had a 6-1 lead.
"We are going to score some runs," said Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, the AL's reigning most valuable player. "That is what I like about this team - we make everything possible to score runs."
Houston led the major leagues last season with 896 runs.
"It was coming, and there is more to come," Hinch said. "We are a good offensive team. We get frustrated because we have high standards and we have a lot of high expectations. There is not a lot of panic."
Now it is the Mariners' offense that has stalled a bit, scoring five runs in the past four games. Seattle has scored just one run against Houston pitching in back-to-back games. Robinson Cano's RBI single in the third inning Wednesday tied the game at 1-1.
"Our bats have . cooled off," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "You've got to give some credit to their pitching and how they've attacked us. Hopefully, we will get after them (Thursday) and split the series, and go out on the road."
The Mariners have a new decoration in their clubhouse near James Paxton's locker: A stuffed-animal bald eagle.
During a pre-game ceremony April 5 in Minnesota, Paxton stood on the mound before his first road start when a live trained bald eagle tried to land on the pitcher's shoulder instead of the infield grass, causing a few seconds of heart-thumping uncertainty.
Teammates apparently are not going to let Paxton forget that moment, because it was third baseman Kyle Seager, along with bench coach Manny Acta, who spotted the toy eagle in the grandstands of Safeco Field during batting practice Tuesday.
Seager traded a signed Paxton jersey for the furry bird. It was hanging up in the clubhouse later that night grasping a baseball in its talons.
"The guys are having a little fun with it," Servais said.
"No, I think it is cool," he said.
RACKING UP STRIKEOUTS
After Lance McCullers Jr. struck out 11 in Houston's 4-1 win Tuesday, it marked the seventh double-digit strikeout game by an Astros' starter this season.
That is the most by a single team through 18 games in major league history. The previous record was six, set by the 1966 Cleveland Indians and 1973 California Angels.
"I know we have an elite starting pitcher every night, and that helps," Hinch said. "We are a difficult team to match up with . because of the different styles we have, and the power."
IN AND OUT OF LINEUP
Astros: Third baseman Alex Bregman (three hits in past 21 at-bats) and outfielder Jake Marisnick (10 strikeouts in past 13 hitless at-bats) were out of the starting lineup Wednesday. Hinch said he will get more of his regulars days off in the coming weeks.
Mariners: To make room for outfielder Ben Gamel (strained right oblique) on Wednesday, LHP Ariel Miranda was sent to Triple-A Tacoma. Gamel batted seventh in his first game back, and will get the most time against right-handed pitching, Servais said.
When Seattle needs a fifth starter Sunday in Texas, is will be RHP Erasmo Ramirez, who will make his season debut.
Astros: McCann (right hand) felt a little sore the day after being hit on the knuckles by a Wade LeBlanc pitch Tuesday night, but was back behind the plate Wednesday, batting seventh.
Mariners: Catcher Mike Zunino (oblique) made his final rehab appearance Wednesday at Single-A Modesto. He is expected to join the big club Friday in Texas. . First baseman Ryon Healy (sprained ankle) is finishing up a running program, and is expected to go out on rehab assignment after the Mariners go on the road Friday.
Astros: RHP Charlie Morton (2-0, 1.00 ERA) has logged six innings in each of his first three starts, all at home. This is his first road start of 2018. He pitched last April at Safeco Field (five innings pitched, three earns runs), taking a loss. In fact, he went 1-2 in four starts against Seattle last season.
Mariners: After winning his first start in San Francisco on April 3, LHP Marco Gonzales (1-1, 8.25 ERA) has not gotten past the fourth inning in either one of his past two starts.