SEATTLE -- That explosive offense that almost everyone expects of the Astros finally showed up Wednesday night. It was a one-inning volcano eruption. A six-run seventh inning when Houston sent 11 hitters to the plate ended a pitching duel and propelled the Astros to a 7-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.
"We're a good offense, don't forget that,'' Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "It was coming and there's more to come. As the game went on our at-bats got better and better, which is encouraging. I don't think we can allow a rough patch to get in the way of the reality that we're a really good hitting club."
Only twice in the previous 12 games had the Astros scored more than four runs. They scored three runs or fewer in eight of those games. And they scored only one run the first six innings Wednesday off Seattle starter Mike Leake (2-1) before the breakout inning in the seventh, which is the most runs Houston has scored in an inning this season.
It included six hits (with three doubles) and a walk. Houston (12-7) also scored a run off an error by Seattle right fielder Mitch Haniger.
Hinch felt it all happened because of a stellar defensive play by left fielder Derek Fisher in the bottom of the fifth. Fisher robbed Seattle shortstop Jean Segura of a home run with a catch at the top of the wall to end the inning and keep the game tied at 1-1.
"It was a big momentum play with the way the game was going,'' Hinch said. "Everybody exhales and then we come back and score a lot of runs. So it obviously was a turning point."
Fisher kept backing up on the towering fly ball and managed to leap and grab it at the last second.
"I was just trying to read how it was going to go back,'' Fisher said. "It was a hard one to gauge on whether to jump or not jump. Fortunately, I caught it."
It was one of two runs the Mariners didn't score because of the Houston defense. Right fielder Josh Reddick threw out Ben Gamel at the plate in the second inning.
Stellar defense helped Astros starter Gerrit Cole (2-0) win the game on a night when he wasn't the dominating pitcher he had been in his first three starts this season, posting 36 strikeouts in 21 innings. Trying to become the first pitcher in Major League history to open a season with four games of double-digit strikeouts, Cole finished with five. He allowed only one run (unearned) in seven innings.
"He didn't have his best stuff tonight, but that's the sign of a great pitcher,'' said Astros catcher Brian McCann, who had two doubles. "Gerrit is as good as they come. When you look at your season overall, you probably have your 'A' stuff six or seven times. It's the other starts that make or break your season. I thought he pitched phenomenal tonight."
Cole felt he pitched better as the game progressed.
"I started making better pitch selections,'' he said. "But there were a couple of times early where I didn't execute my pitches. I had to rely on the defense to make some great plays."
Even on a so-so night, the Astros' starting pitching is going to keep the team in the game most of the time. And the offense is going to have moments like the seventh inning Wednesday night when it was unstoppable. The Astros finished with 12 hits and six doubles.
"We've been battling out there,'' Fisher said. "But we put some good swings together and hit some balls hard tonight and they're starting to fall for us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Reddick's great throw kept the Mariners from tying the game in the bottom of the second. Cole walked Ben Gamel and Daniel Vogelbach with two outs before Seattle catcher David Freitas stroked a one-hop single to right, but Reddick made a perfect throw to McCann to cut down Gamel at the plate.
Outfielder George Springer, who now has played in 502 MLB games, has 103 career home runs. It's the second-best total in franchise history for a player's first 500 games. Lance Berkman had 107 homers in his first 500 games.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With the Astros and Mariners tied at 1 in the fifth inning, Fisher kept the Mariners from taking the lead when he reached over the wall to rob Segura of a home run.
Segura launched a towering fly off Cole that appeared headed for the Astros bullpen past the outfield wall, but Fisher timed his leap perfectly and made the catch right over the top of the wall to end the inning.
HE SAID IT
"That's the most casual rob of a home run I've ever seen in my career. He was either surprised or as cool as anyone can imagine.'' -- Hinch said of Fisher's over-the-wall catch of a would-be homer by Segura in the fifth inning.
The Astros close out the four-game series in Seattle with a day game against the Mariners on Thursday, starting at 2:40 CT. Charlie Morton (2-0, 1.00) faces Marco Gonzales (1-1, 8.25). The Astros are 5-2 in day games this season. The team will fly to Chicago for a three-game series with the White Sox starting Friday night when Justin Verlander (2-0, 1.35) makes his fifth start of the season. James Shields (1-1, 4.50) was scheduled to start for Chicago, but the White Sox needed him in the 14th inning of Wednesday's loss at Oakland.