It’s debatable whether the Seattle Mariners are playing better baseball now than they were when they recently dropped six straight games at Safeco Field.
But with Saturday night’s 3-1 victory, the Mariners (62-73) have now won three straight games. 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 fair to decent outing from starter Joe Saunders, weathered a few fielding mistakes with a couple of nice plays and hung onto to win.
Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge wasn’t exactly gleeful postgame when talking about the latest triumph.
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“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 ball game.”
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 the game with bloop single into left off of Astros’ starter Dallas Keuchel. Kyle Seager moved Miller to third with a one out single to right and Morales scored him with an infield single deep in the hole. Keuchel then issued a walk to Raul Ibanez to load the bases and issued another walk to Nick Franklin to score a run. Dustin Ackley drove in the third run of the inning with a ground ball fielder choice to first.
From there, the Mariners bats went cold. Keuchel (5-8) settled in and worked six scoreless innings allowing just two base runners.
“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 Astros bullpen. Old friend and now 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 Kyle Seager to load the bases. But Kendrys Morales popped up, swinging at the first pitch he saw from Bedard – a fastball up and Raul Ibanez 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 typically in his start. He allowed base runners but wouldn’t give in and let runs score.
The lone run that scored with Saunders on the mound wasn’t earned and came in the fourth inning. With Brandon Barnes on third base and Jake Elmore on first, the Astros attempted a double steal with one out. Elmore broke for second base on a steal attempt. When Humberto Quintero’s throw came rocketing toward second, Elmore stopped short of the base. Nick Franklin, who was receiving the throw, took his eye off it as he was trying to watch to see what Barnes was doing at third base. The ball hit off the tip of his glove and hit him in the chest and bounced away. Barnes jogged home and Barnes went to second.
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.
Saunders didn’t make it out of the sixth. With runners on first and second and one out, Wedge called on Carter Capps to face Matt Dominguez.
“I just figured it was better to go with the right-on-right match-up in that situation,” Wedge said. “Joe wasn’t on top of his game today. I felt like it was a better move to go to the bullpen.”
Saunders wasn’t pleased and it showed in his body language as he left the field.
“Yeah, I wasn’t happy,” Saunders said. “But honestly I’m never happy about coming out of the game. I thought I had a lot left in the tank. But he’s the manager for a reason and he makes those decisions. In my opinion, I think I could have gotten out of that jam and pitched deeper into the game. But it was one of those things he felt one guy match-up wise was better than the other. We still won. That’s all that matters.”
Capps ended the threat by getting Jake Elmore to pop out and striking out Marwin Gonzalez.
The Mariners bullpen of Capps, Yoervis Medina and Danny Farquhar pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings. After issuing a lead-off walk, Farquhar retired the next three batters to earn his 11th save.