SEATTLE -- Looking at the box score of the Astros' 9-2 victory over the Mariners, you probably wouldn't guess they were victims of a bizarre triple play and a starting pitcher taking a line drive off his pitching elbow.Charlie Morton, however, shook it off and pitched seven shutout innings Thursday
SEATTLE -- Looking at the box score of the Astros' 9-2 victory over the Mariners, you probably wouldn't guess they were victims of a bizarre triple play and a starting pitcher taking a line drive off his pitching elbow.
Charlie Morton, however, shook it off and pitched seven shutout innings Thursday at Safeco Field, allowing only three hits and no walks while striking out eight in another dominant performance by a Houston starting pitcher.
Jose Altuve had four RBIs, including a bases-clearing double during a four-run fifth inning, but this game was all about the man on the mound. Morton improved to 3-0 and has the best ERA in the American League at 0.72.
And he did it despite a Robinson Cano line drive that careened off Morton's elbow in the fourth inning.
"He obviously came back strong and was throwing really good stuff,'' Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "I applaud him for being able to collect himself and finish the inning and some more strong innings after that. Just an incredible job."
Morton said anytime you get hit with a hard liner like that one, you have to give it a couple of minutes to see how you feel.
"It depends on how it's affecting you,'' Morton said. "I was able to stay loose for the most part."
<p?> The Astros now have three of the top four ERAs among AL starters, including Gerrit Cole at 0.96 and Justin Verlander at 1.35. </p?>
Morton has gone six innings or longer in all four of his starts this season, but that's nothing new for this staff. The starting pitchers for Houston have gone six innings or more in the last seven games.
"Yeah, but it can change quick,'' Morton warned. "In 2015, I won my first five starts, then I gave up nine runs in two-thirds of an inning. My goal is just go out there and have quality innings. It's pitch to pitch."
And moment to moment, in a game that seemed to turn in Houston's favor after Evan Gattis hit into a triple play in the fourth inning. The Astros scored all nine runs after that incident and finished with 11 hits.
"That was a weird game, sort of the tale of two different halves,'' Hinch said. "A couple of pitchers avoiding major injuries with comebackers [including Seattle starter Marco Gonzales on a Carlos Correa liner] and a triple play I don't even want to talk about."
Max Stassi and Josh Reddick each hit solo home runs late before Altuve drove in his fourth run of the game with another RBI double in a three-run ninth inning.
"We knew it was a matter of time until we turned things around," Reddick said of the Houston hitters.
Reddick also praised the starting pitchers, who have kept games close and given the offense plenty of opportunities to finally get going.
"It's a lot easier in the outfield, I can tell you that,'' Reddick said. "You just have to jog in and out. We couldn't ask for more from those guys."
The Astros (13-7) won the final three games of the series with the Mariners after losing the series opener. Houston is 9-1 in its last 10 games against Seattle, dating back to last season.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
An error by Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager on Alex Bregman's grounder to third opened the door for the four-run fifth. Marwin Gonzalez immediately singled and Reddick followed with an RBI before a single and a walk loaded the bases for Altuve.
"We took advantage of a couple of weird plays,'' Hinch said. "We're an opportunist offense. We're pretty potent when you give us extra opportunities. It was nice to see our guys loosen up a little bit in the second half of the game."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
As crazy a 5-4-3 triple play as you'll ever see. The Astros were victimized when Gattis became distracted after grounding into a double play and walked away from first base. It marked the first triple play the Astros hit into since George Springer did so in 2016, and their ninth in club history.
"It was just a mistake," Gattis said. "I knew how many outs there were. It was about grounding into a double play. At the time, I wanted to laugh on the inside because of how stupid it was. It was a 0-0 game. I think I got so mad I couldn't think straight. It's ridiculous." More >
Astros reliever Will Harris has recorded 18 consecutive scoreless appearances on the road, dating back to last season, the longest active streak in baseball. But it's only the fifth-longest in team history. The longest was left-hander Tim Byrdak, who had a 24-game streak in 2010.
The Astros will move on to cooler temperatures when they start a three-game series against the White Sox on Friday night (7:10 CT) at Guaranteed Rate Field. "We're not wired to play in cold weather in this sport,'' said Hinch. "But both teams have to deal with it, and we have to toughen up a little bit." Verlander (2-0, 1.35 ERA) will make his fifth start of the season. The White Sox, who have yet to announce a starter, have lost four consecutive games and nine of the last 10.
Terry Blount is a contributor to MLB.com based in Seattle.