SEATTLE -- A promising start by Mariners right-hander Mike Leake went south in a hurry on Wednesday as the Astros pulled away for a 7-1 win behind some stellar defense and strong pitching by Gerrit Cole.
Leake dueled Cole to a 1-1 draw through six, but Houston erupted for six runs in the seventh on six hits -- including three doubles -- along with a walk and error. A leadoff walk and three straight hits ended Leake's night before he could get an out in that inning, and the Astros jumped on reliever Nick Vincent as well to blow the game open.
"I left a few balls up and with a lineup like that, you don't get many chances," Leake said. "They took advantage, found holes and doubles and next thing you know, we're down. With that lineup, you can't slumber for a second."
Leake wound up going six-plus innings with seven hits and five runs, the first time he's allowed more than three runs in nine starts since being acquired from St. Louis last August. He's now 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four outings this season.
Manager Scott Servais said Leake had "the best pure stuff" he's had all year through six innings, but noted the Astros' potent offense doesn't allow for many miscues.
"They've got extra-base-hit power up and down their lineup and when you do get the ball up or make mistakes, they can take advantage," he said. "But the story in those tight games, your margin for error is so small -- a walk here, a misplay there, a bad pitch in the wrong spot -- and you look up and you're down a couple runs. That's kind of what happened tonight."
Cole allowed just one unearned run over seven innings as he improved to 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA for the Astros after being acquired this winter from the Pirates.
The Mariners just missed on two scoring opportunities against Cole that would have given them an early lead. Ben Gamel was thrown out at the plate by right fielder Josh Reddick trying to score from second on a single by David Freitas in the second, and Jean Segura was robbed of a home run at the top of the wall by left fielder Derek Fisher in the fifth.
The Astros are 12-7 after their second straight win, while Seattle slipped to 9-7 heading into Thursday's series finale. The Mariners have scored just five runs in their past four games while going 1-3. Their lone run Wednesday came in the third when Dee Gordon reached on a bunt and eventually scored on Robinson Cano's RBI single.
"We're playing good ball, but our bats have cooled off," Servais said. "You have to give some credit to their pitching and how they've attacked us. Hopefully, we'll get after them [Thursday], get a split in this series and then get out on the road."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
1,000 K's: Leake isn't normally a strikeout machine, coming into the game with just eight in his first 18 innings this season. But after a leadoff double off the center-field wall by Carlos Correa in the fourth, the Mariners right-hander punched out Reddick, Yuli Gurriel and Marwin Gonzalez to keep the score knotted at 1-1. The three strikeouts hiked his game total to seven, giving him 1,000 for his career.
"I felt like I had a lot of bite on my pitches tonight," Leake said. "Unfortunately, it only lasted the six innings, but it will be fun to grow from that one."
The Astros had allowed just three stolen bases in their first 18 games, but the Mariners doubled that number with Gordon, Gamel and Mitch Haniger each stealing a bag. Gordon now has eight on the season, tied with Trea Turner of the Nats and Tim Anderson of the White Sox for the MLB lead.
"That was the game plan going in," Servais said. "You're not going to get a ton of opportunities. You've got to get extra-base hits or create as many scoring opportunities as you can with Gamel, Haniger and everybody knows what Dee can do on the bases. We're going to continue to be aggressive and create opportunities, we just didn't get a whole lot of hits after that."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Segura -- and most of the fans at Safeco Field -- thought Seattle had taken a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth when the Mariners shortstop lofted a deep drive to left field. But Fisher had other ideas as he timed his leap perfectly to rob Segura with a catch at the top of the fence on a drive projected at 358 feet by Statcast™.
HE SAID IT
"That one kind of daggered me in the back of the head a little. You don't want leadoff walks in that situation." -- Leake on his lone free pass in the game to Reddick that jump-started the Astros' seventh-inning rally
Young left-hander Marco Gonzales will try to salvage a series split in the four-game set when he faces the Astros' Charlie Morton on Thursday at 12:40 p.m. PT at Safeco Field. Gonzales pitched well in his season debut in San Francisco, but totaled just 5 2/3 innings while allowing 13 hits and eight runs in his last two outings against the A's and Royals. This will be his first career start against Houston.