HOUSTON – One inning was all the Mariners needed to continue their recent mastery of the worst team in baseball.
The Mariners scored three first-inning runs and then didn’t do much of anything the rest of the way. But it was enough to post a 3-1 win on Saturday over a Houston Astros squad that they have beaten the last six times they’ve faced each other at Minute Maid Park.
For all the good the Mariners have accomplished in winning the first three games of this series, it’s tough to gauge how improved their play has been given the inferior caliber of their opponent.
The Astros fell to a disastrous 44-91 on the season, which leaves them on pace to lose 109 games. And they allowed the Mariners to emerge with a victory, despite Seattle notching only three singles after the first inning.
The Astros outhit the Mariners 8-6.
A crowd announced at 21,085 saw the Mariners jump all over starter Dallas Keuchel with the three-run opening frame. Brad Miller blooped a ball to left, then Kyle Seager added a one-out single by grounding a ball through the right side.
An ensuing grounder to the left side by Kendrys Morales was scooped up by shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, whose off-balance throw to second was off-target – allowing a run to score.
The play was ruled the third single of the inning by the Mariners – none of the balls hit particularly hard – and then Keuchel compounded matters with a pair of walks. The second of those, to Nick Franklin, came with the bases loaded and brought a second run home.
Dustin Ackley then grounded out to the right side, scoring another run to make it 3-0.
And from there, that’s really all the Mariners and Joe Saunders needed.
Saunders wasn’t particularly dominant and gave up a plethora of baserunners early. But he also made pitches when he needed to, getting a fielder’s choice groundout with the bases loaded to end the second inning, then a groundout to end the third with a runner in scoring position.
The Astros scored their only run in the fourth inning courtesy of a Franklin error after the Mariners had baserunner Jake Elmore picked off first. But with Elmore hung up between first and second, Franklin dropped a throw from catcher Humberto Quintero and allowed a runner on third to score.
The M’s did nothing off Keuchel after the first inning. Keuchel still had only one out recorded by the time he’d thrown his 31st pitch, but got two more outs on the next four pitches then retired 12 in a row.
It looked like the M’s might break things open in the eighth, loading the bases with one out courtesy of two walks and a single against former Seattle starter Erik Bedard. But Bedard got Morales to pop out foul down the first-base line, then Raul Ibanez grounded out.
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