Astros outslug Mariners for 9th straight win
HOUSTON -- Not even two more blasts by Nelson Cruz on the Mariners' four-homer night could sidetrack the soaring Astros on Saturday, as Houston roared from behind at Minute Maid Park for an 11-4 victory, the ninth straight win for the American League West leaders.
The Astros' 17-7 record matches their best 24-game start in franchise history -- also done in 1980 -- and the winning streak is their longest since 2006. Collin McHugh spotted Seattle a 3-0 lead as Cruz, Logan Morrison and Mike Zunino launched solo shots in the second, but the Astros responded with five homers of their own and rolled to their 13th win in the past 14 games.
"All in all, just a really good offensive night," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "They say solo home runs won't beat you. We tested that a little bit."
Cruz added another long ball in the sixth to increase his Major League-leading totals to 13 home runs and 25 RBIs, but Seattle fell to 10-14 with its third straight loss in Houston.
Jose Altuve's three-run blast in the fourth knocked out Seattle starter Taijuan Walker, who gave up nine hits and eight runs (seven earned) in three-plus innings as he fell to 1-3 with an 8.74 ERA. Evan Gattis, Colby Rasmus, Luis Valbuena and Hank Conger also homered for the Astros, who lead the AL with 37 long balls. The nine combined home runs was a Minute Maid record for a nine-inning game.
Despite surrendering the four solo homers, McHugh improved to 4-0 with his 11th straight win dating back to August. "Let's be honest, it was not a good night to pitch," McHugh said. "It was probably the toughest seven innings of my career."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Marisnick scales Tal's Hill: Talk about a web gem. Acclaim for Jake Marisnick's hot start this season has mostly centered on his hot bat, and for good reason. He's hitting just a few points shy of .400. But on a night when nine home runs flew out of Minute Maid Park, he left an indelible impression with his glove. Marisnick climbed the funky hill that occupies the final 25 feet before the center-field wall in Houston, absolutely robbing Morrison of an RBI extra-base hit to end the top of the sixth. The catch wowed a fired-up crowd and preserved Houston's 9-4 lead. Marisnick even legged out a pair of infield singles to boot.
"He came to my wedding, and I played with him for a year with the Marlins," Morrison said. "So he's now off the Christmas card list." More >
Muscling up at Minute Maid: The Mariners played long ball in the second inning with their three solo shots off McHugh, who hadn't allowed a home run in his previous 25 2/3 innings this season. Cruz led things off with his 12th of the season, a bolt to left field tracked at 403 feet by Statcast. Morrison and Zunino then went back-to-back with two outs. Morrison's third homer of the year -- and second in two nights -- measured 414 feet to right field. Zunino followed with his third this season, an opposite-field 363-foot poke to right.
He just keeps Cruz-in: Cruz launched his second homer of the game and third in the last two nights with a sixth-inning shot tracked by Statcast at 424 feet. The only other Mariner ever to hit 13 homers in the first 24 games of a season was Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997. Griffey went to win the AL MVP Award that year after hitting 56 home runs with 147 RBIs. Only two MLB players have ever hit more than 13 in the first 24 games of a season -- Alex Rodriguez (2007 Yankees) and Albert Pujols (2006 Cardinals) each had 14. Cruz went 3-for-4 and is hitting .347. More >
Anything you can do, I can do better: After watching the Mariners blast those three home runs in the second inning, the Astros managed to one-up them. "They post that inning and someone in our dugout says, 'Hey, we've still got 24 outs left,'" Hinch said. They didn't need that many. Houston launched back-to-back home runs as their response during the third and fourth innings. The individual back-to-back efforts were their first of the season and already put the Astros halfway to their 2014 tally of four. After a slow start in the slugging department this season, the Astros have eight home runs in the last two nights. More >
"They were a nice young team last year and they're playing extremely well right now. Everything is clicking on all cylinders for them. You run into hot teams, that's just the way it goes. I like my team. In fact, I love my team. I think we'll come out of it and be fine. We'll have our winning streaks, too." -- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon
"You want to face him tomorrow? You can come in and pitch to him for us. When he gets going like this, I don't know what to do." -- Hinch quipped to a reporter about Cruz
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• When the Mariners hit three homers in the second inning, it was the first time they managed that feat since Sept. 27, 2009, at Toronto (Kenji Johjima, Matt Tuiasosopo and Franklin Gutierrez).
• The Astros are 10 games above .500 before the All-Star break for the first time since May 4, 2006, when they were 19-9.
Mariners: Veteran lefty J.A. Happ, one of Seattle's biggest surprises in the first month, gets the start in Sunday's 11:10 a.m. PT series finale at Minute Maid Park. The team's fifth starter is 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA in four outings, including an April 22 win over the Astros when he gave up two runs and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings.
Astros: While the fifth starting spot may be a challenge for Houston this season, Roberto Hernandez has done an admirable job in the No. 4 role heading into Sunday's 1:10 CT start. The righty has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his four starts, but he did pick up a loss against Seattle in that April matchup against Happ and the Mariners.
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