Elias (4-4, 3.56 ERA) gave up a first-pitch home run to George Springer, but didn't allow another run until Marwin Gonzalez's homer leading off the eighth, as he allowed just four hits with a career-high-tying 10 strikeouts.
Rookie right-hander Lance McCullers (3-2, 2.45 ERA) took the loss, giving up six hits and five runs (three earned) in 4 1/3 innings. It was just the third loss in 11 games against the Mariners this season for the Astros (40-29), whose lead in the American League West now stands at 2 1/2 games over the Rangers.
"I could have been a lot worse," said McCullers, who gave up two unearned runs in the first after the Mariners loaded the bases with no outs. "Especially with us getting on the board early, you want to keep it as close as possible right there."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Take 'em any way you get 'em: Scoring runs has been a challenge for a Mariners team shut out in four of its previous eight games, so they were happy to take a pair of unearned tallies in a first inning, in which the only ball they got out of the infield was a shallow pop to short-left field that should have been caught, but fell in for a leadoff single by Logan Morrison. The Mariners loaded the bases with a walk and an error on second baseman Gonzalez before Nelson Cruz drew another walk to force in a run and Mark Trumbo followed with a one-out groundout for the other run..
First inning betrays Astros: McCullers was forced to work extra in the first inning after the Astros couldn't catch a pop up in right, second baseman Gonzalez made a fielding error and first baseman Chris Carter missed a tag at first base. That led to two unearned runs, but it sent the tone for a night when nothing much went the Astros' way as McCullers had the shortest start of his brief career. More >
"To me, the game's all about the first inning," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We didn't control the inning nearly as well as we normally do. We had a little bit of everything happen, from a seeing-eye single, to an error, to a missed tag. Too many bad things happened that inning, and that's what kick-started the night."
Heart of the order: McClendon said before the game that his stars needed to step up to carry the offense, and the middle of the order finally provided some production in Seattle's highest-scoring home game since May 17. Robinson Cano emerged from his lengthy slump by going 3-for-4 with a double and two runs. Cruz reached base four times with two walks and two singles, Kyle Seager delivered an RBI single and Trumbo drove in three runs after totaling just one RBI in his first 12 games for Seattle. More >
QUOTABLE "It's an important series. I can't kid you and say it's not. It really is. This is important for us to make a statement and try to continue to move forward and do the things we need to do to get back in this race." -- McClendon after Seattle moved to 8 1/2 games back of the front-running Astros
"I thought he'd be determined after that outing he had in Houston. And he didn't disappoint. I think the home run probably ticked him off a little and made him even more determined." -- McClendon after Elias bounced back from his worst start of the year five days earlierMore >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS The Astros were 27-0 this season when they hit multiple homers, a streak that ended Friday.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW After Morrison led off the bottom of the first for the Mariners with a bloop single to left, he was picked off first base by McCullers. But McClendon challenged the ruling by first-base umpire Tripp Gibson and the call was overturned. Morrison wound up coming around to score and Seattle took a 2-1 lead.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Left-hander Dallas Keuchel (8-2, 2.04 ERA) makes his 15th start of the season when the Astros face Mariners at 9:10 p.m. CT on Saturday at Safeco Field. Keuchel, who took a perfect game into the sixth inning his previous start, has gone at least six innings in 25 consecutive starts, the longest active streak in the Majors.
Mariners: RIght-hander Taijuan Walker (4-6, 5.00 ERA) gets the start for the Mariners in the 7:10 p.m. PT game. Walker is 3-1 with a 1.55 ERA in his last four outings to turn things around after a rough start to his season that included a three-inning outing at Houston on May 2, when he gave up nine hits and eight runs (seven earned). The 22-year-old was 3-0, 2.67 ERA in five previous starts against the Astros.