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Seattle Mariners

McCullers, Springer lead Astros to 2-1 win over Mariners

Houston’s George Springer celebrates his solo home run off Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Wade Miley in the fifth inning of Monday’s game. (Eric Christian Smith / Associated Press)
By Bob Dutton Tacoma News Tribune

HOUSTON – The difference between waste and colossal waste played out on Independence Day in a 2-1 loss for the Mariners in their series opener against Houston at Minute Maid Park on Monday.

Runner at first with no outs in the first inning? Nothing. Bases loaded with no outs in the seventh inning? Nothing? Wade Miley’s best start in roughly a month? They got nothing from that, too.

Nothing, that is, but a loss that snapped their four-game winning streak and prevented the Mariners from reclaiming second place in the American League West Division.

Not much to celebrate on the holiday.

Houston right-hander Lance McCullers (4-2) hadn’t pitched since June 22 because of a blister on his right index finger. Say this: He made pitches when he needed to do so. He struck out 10 and walked one.

Like in the seventh when, trailing by one run, the Mariners got a leadoff single from Robinson Cano before McCullers issued his only walk, on four pitches that weren’t close, to Nelson Cruz.

When Kyle Seager sliced a single to left, the Mariners had the bases loaded with no outs.

And came up empty.

Dae-Ho Lee bounced into a 1-2-3 double play (pitcher-catcher-first). Adam Lind flied out to left.

“I was trying to go to right field,” Lee said, “and it was a hittable pitch. I just missed it.”

That was the game, really.

“We were chasing a lot of bad pitches, including myself,” Cano said. “But we had a situation with bases loaded, and (McCullers) got a ground-ball double play and got out of that inning.

The Astros turned to their bullpen for the final two innings and received strong outings from Luke Gregerson and Will Harris. The latter collected his eighth save in eight chances.

The victory enabled Houston, at 44-39, to pull one game ahead of the Mariners (43-40). The Astros picked up a game on first-place Texas, while the Mariners remained 8 1/2 games back.

Miley (6-5) recovered from a first inning, when everything the Astros hit resembled a bottle rocket, by delivering his fifth quality start in 15 outings. He held the Astros to two runs in 6 2/3 innings.

“The first inning,” Miley said, “I was feeling for some stuff. I was kind of lucky to get out of the inning with only giving up one (run). After that, it was, ‘Just trust yourself. Stop trying to think too much.’

“Obviously, there’s some more work to be done, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

The Mariners set the tone in the first inning. Leonys Martin opened the game with a triple onto Tal’s Hill in straight-away center field before that threat collapsed in magnificent inefficiency.

With Houston conceding a run by playing its infield back, Seth Smith took a third strike. Cano then waved at a third strike in the dirt. The ball got away from catcher Jason Castro, who recovered and threw to first for the out.

Martin tried to score on the throw to first, but Marwin Gonzalez made an accurate throw to McCullers, who was covering the plate. Martin was out. A double play. The inning was over.

“If he had taken off the minute the catcher grabbed the ball and spun…,” manager Scott Servais said. “He didn’t. He waited until the ball was out of the catcher’s hand. Then he went.

“Would it have made a difference? It very well could have.”

George Springer started the Houston first inning with a ringing double off the left-center wall. He moved to third on Gonzalez’s single through the left side.

Miley got an out when shortstop Ketel Marte snagged Jose Altuve’s liner, but a walk to Carlos Correa loaded the bases. Miley escaped with just one run, which scored on Luis Valbuena’s loud sacrifice fly to deep center.

The Mariners answered by pulling even in the second inning after Seager’s one-out double – a fan touched the ball down the right-field line.

Lee followed with an RBI single to right.

It stayed 1-1 until Springer launched a 1-0 change-up for a two-out homer in the fifth inning. A 454-foot launch to left.

“I was trying to go sinker down and away there,” Miley said, “and I cut it back over the middle of the plate. Just a mistake pitch. He did what he’s supposed to do with it.”

Unlike the Mariners.