SEATTLE — One day after a dazzling performance by Taijuan Walker, the Mariners got seven shutout innings Tuesday from right-hander Nathan Karns in an 11-1 thumping of the Houston Astros at Safeco Field.
"I guess I was just tired of not doing what I’m capable of doing," Karns said. "I just wanted to give a good performance today…I took great notes watching Taijuan do his thing (Monday). Taijuan stayed aggressive."
So did Karns,who gave up just two hits while out-pitching Dallas Keuchel, the reigning Cy Young winner, as the Mariners won for the eighth time in 11 games and, yes, remained atop the American League West Division.
It was a mixed — but mostly good — night for second baseman Robinson Cano, who reached 1,000 career RBIs with a two-run single in a decisive four-run fifth inning.
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But Cano also, embarrassingly, lost track of the number of outs in the Houston seventh inning by assuming a force at second was the third out. Karns struck out the next batter.
"That can’t happen," Cano said. "You’ve got to pay attention to the game. Thank God, we were winning 5-0. But that’s a situation, in a close game, a team can take advantage of that. Karns came up with a strikeout."
Cano then atoned later in the inning with a grand slam against reliever Michael Feliz. It was Cano’s 10th career grand slam but first as a Mariner. The six RBIs matched a career high achieved on two previous occasions.
"Well, I’ve got to pay (Karns) back," Cano said. "I’ve been in this game so long, that (lapse) can’t happen. There’s no excuse for that. Thank God, I came through (later in) the inning and hit a homer."
Ketel Marte contributed two singles and a double to a 13-hit attack and scored three runs. Cano, Nelson Cruz and Dae-Ho Lee each had two hits.
Karns (2-1) walked three and struck out six in a 104-pitch performance. Tony Zych gave up one run in the eighth inning after walking the first two batters before Mike Montgomery closed out the victory.
Keuchel (2-3) was tough early, but the Mariners took command with a four-run fifth before Cano’s slam turned the game into a rout. Keuchel gave up five runs and six hits in six innings.
"That says a lot," manager Scott Servais said. "Keuchel, obviously, is a really good pitcher in our league. We just kind of grinded away tonight. We got a couple of big hits."
Backup catcher Erik Kratz pitched the eighth inning for Houston. He gave up two runs and three hits and threw two wild pitches.
The Mariners opened the scoring after Marte’s leadoff double in the fourth. He went to third on Cano’s grounder to second before Cruz delivered an RBI single through the left side of a drawn-in infield for a 1-0 lead.
Karns responded with the ultimate shutdown inning: three strikeouts.
The Mariners loaded the bases with one out in the fifth by sandwiching walks to Chris Iannetta and Seth Smith around Lee’s infield single.
Nori Aoki’s grounder to first resulted in a force at home, but Marte lined an RBI single into center for a 2-0 lead. Cano then looped a two-run single into left field that boosted his career count to 1,000 RBIs.
Marte scored by breaking for the plate after the Astros trapped Cano trapped between first and second. the throw home by first baseman Tyler White was late, and the Mariners led 5-0.
Karns then worked another one-two-three shutdown inning.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Robinson Cano reached 1,000 career RBIs on a two-run single in a four-run fifth inning. He achieved the milestone in his 1,708th game.
"Those are the numbers you can share with your kids," he said. "It was good to come through against Keuchel, a lefty. It’s hard to get a hit against him. To get a single to go up by four runs, that’s pretty special."
Since 1920, only four second basemen reached 1,000 RBIs in fewer games: Tony Lazzeri (1,417), Jeff Kent (1,486), Bobby Doerr ( 1,552) and Charlie Gehringer (1,593).
Cano’s grand slam in the seventh inning pushed his RBI total to 1,004.
PLUS: Ketel Marte had three hits. His leadoff double in the fourth inning led to the first run. His two-out RBI single in the fifth extended the lead to 2-0. And his single in the seventh preceded Cano’s grand slam…Dae-Ho Lee went 2-for-3 and raised his average to .300.
MINUS: Cano lost track of the outs in the Houston seventh when, with one out, he took a flip from Marte for a force at second and turned to trot toward the dugout. Instead of a possible inning-ending double play, the inning continued. But Karns rescued Cano by striking out the next hitter…reliever Tony Zych, with a nine-run lead, started the eighth inning by walking the first two batters.
STAT PACK: The Mariners clinched their fourth straight series victory. The last time they won four in a row was Aug. 5-17, 2014: vs. Atlanta (2-0), vs. Chicago White Sox(3-1), vs. Toronto(3-0) and at Detroit (2-1).
QUOTABLE: Cano is anticipating a hefty fine from the Mariners’ Kangaroo Court after forgetting the number of outs in the Houston seventh inning.
"I’m in the box," he said, "and we’ve got a lot of witnesses."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners