Edgar Martinez might want to retire right now after just one game as the Seattle Mariners’ hitting coach. It’s not going to get much better than Saturday’s 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros.
The Mariners hit three home runs for the first time in 37 games. Take a bow Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith and Mark Trumbo. Cruz’s homer was his first in 21 games; Trumbo’s blast was his first extra-base hit as a Mariner.
They scored their first two runs, in erasing an early 2-0 deficit, by showing uncommon patience in drawing four walks against Astros ace Dallas Keuchel (8-3) in the second inning.
And when the Astros threatened to get back into the game by scoring once in the seventh inning, the Mariners counter-punched later in the inning by getting an RBI single from a struggling Robinson Cano.
For a hitting coach, that pretty much checks off every box, doesn’t it?
“It’s like (Martinez) said in the (pre-game) meeting,” Cano said. “If you want to win, you’ve got to do your thing. As a team, that’s what we need. We need a guy to give us that confidence because we’ve got a great team.
“We can battle and compete with anyone.”
On this night, certainly, that was true.
The Mariners got another strong start from Taijuan Walker, who received a standing ovation when he exited with one out in the seventh inning and runner at first base.
“I’m just trying to be aggressive with my first pitch,” he said, “and make them put the ball in play. The biggest thing was not giving away any free passes.”
Walker (5-6) gave up two solo homers in the second inning but little else; he struck out a career-high 11 and didn’t walk a batter before handing a 5-2 lead to Vidal Nuno.
OK, that move didn’t work out.
Nuno walked Luis Valbuena and yielded an RBI single to Marwin Gonzalez — a run that was charged to Walker.
The Mariners then turned to former closer Fernando Rodney with one out and runners at first and second. It was the first time this season that Rodney entered a game with runners on base, but he stranded both of them.
The Mariners then got the run back.
Austin Jackson drew a leadoff walk from reliever Tony Sipp, went to second on a one-out wild pitch and scored on Cano’s RBI single.
Mark Lowe, Charlie Furbush and Carson Smith closed out the victory. Smith got the final four outs for his fifth save in five chances since replacing Rodney at the back of the bullpen.
The Mariners now have a chance to sweep first-place Houston after entering Friday with a 2-8 mark in the season series.
Houston opened the scoring when Evan Gattis got just enough of a first-pitch Walker fastball for a leadoff homer to right field in the second inning. It was his 13th of the season; five have come against the Mariners.
Valbuena got more than enough in crushing a first-pitch fastball for a two-out homer later in the inning. It his 17th of the year and sixth against the Mariners.
The Mariners answered the two bombs later in the inning in the softest way possible — by scoring two runs on a seeing-eye ground single and four walks.
Keuchel had not walked more than three in any of his previous 28 starts before walking four in the inning.
“I just didn’t get the job done,” he said. “After getting spotted two runs early, against a good pitcher, I’ve got to take advantage of that.”
The Mariners took the lead in the third when Cruz ended a long-ball drought that spanned 83 plate appearances. It was his 19th homer of the season but first since May 27 at Tampa Bay.
“It’s nice to get the lead,” Cruz said. “That’s the only thing that’s important. Walker threw amazing, and we found a way to get it done today. Keuchel, he’s always tough.”
Smith made it 4-2 by rocking a 412-foot leadoff homer in the fifth that marked the first homer against Keuchel by a left-handed hitter since last August.
Walker pitched around Carlos Correa’s one-out double in the sixth by striking out Preston Tucker and then by benefiting from a controversial call when Gattis lofted a foul pop down down the left-field line.
Miller appeared positioned for a catch in the field of play before a fan reached over with a glove and tried for the catch. The ball dropped, but third-base umpire Mike DiMuro ruled Gattis out on spectator interference.
Houston manager A.J. Hinch protested sufficiently to get ejected.
Trumbo then opened the bottom of the inning with a impressive line-drive homer to center for his first extra-base hit in 14 games since arriving in a June 3 trade from Arizona.
“It’s been a while since I hit one,” Trumbo said. “It was a nice feeling.”
There were a lot of those on Edgar’s first night.