HOUSTON — Who knows what to expect with these Seattle Mariners?
After getting blanked in the two previous games, and one day after seeing their King fail to survive the first inning, the Mariners struck back Saturday with a five-run first inning and rolled to an 8-1 victory over Houston.
Logan Morrison, who had not hit a homer since May 12, hit two in the first three innings. Rookie lefty Mike Montgomery delivered a third straight quality start and, finally, got his first major-league victory.
“You don’t really believe in momentum in this game day to day,” Morrison said, “but the Astros had lost seven in a row before (Friday ) night. They came out swinging. It was good for us to get on them early.”
The Mariners also, finally, won a game at Minute Maid Park after suffering a four-game sweep in April and Friday’s 10-0 annihilation when Felix Hernandez gave up eight runs in one-third of an inning.
So, yes, this was badly needed.
“My club scored eight runs in the first three innings,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “and then we shut it down the rest of the way. We have got to find our killer instinct.”
McClendon warmed to the topic and continued:
“We’re six games under .500,” he said, “and I don’t think anybody around here is happy with that. I’ve got to get them going. We’ve got to get going. It’s time to kick a little butt.”
That happened early Saturday when the Mariners battered Astros starter Collin McHugh, who has been something of a nemesis in winning five of seven previous career starts against them.
McHugh (6-3) gave up all eight runs while lasting just three innings. But the Mariners managed only four hits over the final six innings against Roberto Hernandez, Chad Qualls and Luke Gregerson.
“If we do a better job off of (Hernandez),” Morrison agreed, “we get deeper into their pen. And we wouldn’t have to worry some guys (on Sunday). There’s still work to be done, and we’ve got to get there.”
Morrison’s first homer capped the five-run first inning. His second came in a three-run third. While he recently had a 16-game hitting streak, a career best, Morrison had no homers and just seven RBIs in his previous 28 games.
“I was getting lucky (in the hitting streak),” he said. “It felt a little better today, but I still have to be more consistent. The first two (at-bats) were good. I might as well have hung it up after that.”
This was the third two-homer game of Morrison’s career, and the five RBIs matched a career best; he also had five on June 19, 2012 while playing for Miami at Boston.
Montgomery (1-1) limited the Astros to one run and six hits in six innings and lowered his ERA to 1.89 for his three starts since his June 2 recall from Triple-A Tacoma.
“We got the big lead,” he said, “and I just wanted to battle. I wasn’t quite as sharp as I could be, but I made good pitches when I had to.
“Our job is not to give up runs and, sometimes, you’ve got to find a way to do that when you don’t have your best stuff.”
Montgomery carried an 8-0 lead into the fifth but lost his shutout on successive one-out doubles from Jason Castro and George Springer.
Carlos Correa then walked, but Montgomery struck out Evan Gattis before ending his 98-pitch outing by retiring Chris Carter on a fielder’s-choice grounder to short.
Just-recalled Danny Farquhar replaced Montgomery and worked two scoreless innings. Vidal Nuno closed out the victory.
If the killer instinct that McClendon wants failed to appear in the later innings, the Mariners could not have scripted a better start after failing to score in their previous 20 innings over three games.
Austin Jackson punched a one-out single past second and went to third when Robinson Cano lined a double over Springer’s head in right.
Nelson Cruz served an RBI single into right before Kyle Seager sent a drive to deep center. Jack Marisnick ran down the ball at the wall, which meant Seager settled for a sacrifice fly.
Mark Trumbo lined a single into center that moved Cruz to second, and Morrison followed by tattooing a 1-1 curve for his first homer of the game — a 418-foot homer to right. Three more runs.
The five-run burst was the Mariners’ biggest inning of the season and more runs than they scored in 15 of their previous 16 games.
Morrison’s second homer was 406-foot drive in the third inning after Trumbo’s one-out single.
The Mariners weren’t done.
Mike Zunino drew a two-out walk and went to second when McHugh nicked Smith with a pitch. Jackson then grounded an RBI single up the middle for an 8-0 lead.
That was it, though, and the lack of anything further riled McClendon.
“I didn’t see any more runs,” he said. “We had opportunities, and I didn’t see any more runs. We have to take advantage of those opportunities.”