HOUSTON — It’s debatable whether the Seattle Mariners are playing better baseball now than they were when they recently dropped six consecutive games at Safeco Field.
But with Saturday night’s 3-1 victory, the Mariners (62-73) have now won three games in a row. That they came against the hapless Houston Astros (44-91) is not surprising. They should win these games.
Seattle scored three runs in the first inning, got a decent outing from starter Joe Saunders, balanced a few fielding mistakes with a couple of nice plays and hung on to win.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge wasn’t exactly gleeful after the game when talking about the latest triumph.
“We played sloppy baseball in the second half of the baseball game,” Wedge said. “We had opportunities offensively. We misplayed some balls defensively, but in the end we won the ballgame.”
The three-run first inning was the result of a few well placed singles and walks. It was far from a display of offensive firepower.
Brad Miller led off with a bloop single to left off Astros starter Dallas Keuchel. Kyle Seager moved Miller to third with a one out single to right and Kendrys Morales scored him with an infield single deep in the hole. Keuchel then issued a walk to Raul Ibañez to load the bases and issued another walk to Nick Franklin to score a run. Dustin Ackley drove in the third run with a groundball fielder’s choice to first.
After the first inning, the Seattle bats went cold. Keuchel (5-8) settled in and worked six scoreless innings allowing just two baserunners.
“He threw well,” Miller said. “He started to get into rhythm. It’s a long game. Obviously we are glad we jumped out early on them because that ended up being the difference.”
The Mariners had scoring opportunities against the Houston bullpen.
Former Mariners starter and now Astros reliever Erik Bedard came in and pitched with his usual mixture of talent and disinterest.
Bedard gave up a single to Humberto Quintero, walked Miller, got Franklin Gutierrez to pop out and then walked Seager to load the bases. But Morales popped up, swinging at the first pitch he saw from Bedard — a fastball up — and Ibañez hit a comebacker to the mound to end the inning.
“That’s not the pitch we want him to swing at,” Wedge said. “Kendrys is really aggressive and he’s just trying to do a little too much.”
In the ninth with two outs, Abraham Almonte dropped down a bunt for a single. Bedard picked it up and fired wildly to first over the head of Chris Carter. Almonte raced all the way to third, but Quintero grounded out to end the inning — another opportunity wasted.
Saunders (11-13) pitched a typical start, allowing baserunners but not giving in and allowing runs to score.
The lone run Houston scored came with Saunders on the mound wasn’t earned.
The run came in the fourth inning. With one out and Brandon Barnes on third base and Jake Elmore on first, the Astros attempted a double steal. When catcher Quintero’s throw came rocketing toward second, Elmore stopped short of the base. Nick Franklin, who was receiving the throw, took his eye off of the ball to see what Barnes was doing at third base.
The throw hit the tip of Franklin’s glove, hit Franklin in the chest and bounced away. Barnes jogged home and Elmore was safe at second on the error.
But no more runs would come across. Saunders struck out Marwin Gonzalez and Brad Miller made a nice diving stop and throw to first on a ground ball up the middle from Cody Clark to end the inning.
“For him to make that play and pick us up was huge,” Saunders said.
Seattle relievers Carter Capps, Yoervis Medina and Danny Farquhar pitched 3† scoreless innings. After issuing a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth, Farquhar retired the next three batters to earn his 11th save of the season.