Astros use series finale to show Mariners who’s who in the AL West, win four-game series

En route to their first World Series title last year, the Astros won 14 of 19 games against Mariners. In their first series of 2018, Houston took three of four at Safeco, halting a strong start to the season for the Mariners.

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This is what good baseball teams do. They take advantage of prime opportunities. They make opponents pay for costly mistakes. They minimize lapses themselves.

The Houston Astros did all of that Thursday afternoon in a 9-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field, and they did all that well enough over the last three days to again foil their AL West rival.

En route to their first World Series title last year, the Astros won 14 of 19 games against Mariners. In their first series of 2018, Houston took three of four at Safeco, halting a strong start to the season for the Mariners.

In the series finale Thursday, the Astros rode another dominant pitching performance to shut down the Mariners offense. Right-hander Charlie Morton limited Seattle to three hits in seven innings, striking out eight and walking none.

He retired 15 in a row during one stretch in the middle innings.

The Mariners (9-8) were outscored 21-6 in the series. They won a crisp game, 2-1, in the series opener Monday, one of the highlight performances of the early season.

But over the final three games, while facing the ripe right arms of Morton, Gerrit Cole and Lance McCullers, the Mariners were outscored 20-4 and managed to hit just .161 (15-for-93). They have scored just seven runs in their past five games.

“We got shut down,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “You have to give Houston credit. Their pitching was as advertised. Their guys are throwing the ball really well. They really did — they shut us down in this series.”

Left-hander Marco Gonzales was effective early for the Mariners on Thursday. He struck out George Springer (looking), Jose Altuve (looking) and Carlos Correa (swinging) on 18 pitches in the first inning. By the end of the third inning, he had set a season high in strikeouts with seven.
Gonzales got out of a jam in the fourth inning when Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis grounded into an unusual 5-4-3 triple play. Kyle Seager fielded the ball at third, touched his base for the first out and threw to Robinson Cano for a force out at second base.

Gattis, safe at first base on the fielder’s choice, then jogged back onto the infield, believing there were already three outs. First baseman Daniel Vogelbach, after receiving a throw from Cano, then tagged Gattis for the third out.

It’s the Mariners’ first triple play since July 2015 at Toronto.

The Astros scored four runs in the fifth inning, all unearned after a Seager error to start the inning. The first run scored when a Josh Reddick high pop up landed in center field between Dee Gordon and Jean Segura. That allowed Alex Bregman to score from third.

“Should it have been caught? Yeah. When the ball’s in the air that long, it should be caught,” Servais said. “It certainly changes the course of the inning and the game.”

Gonzales, after two turns through the Astros’ lineup, was pulled with two on and two out in the fifth. Servais said he preferred the matchup with right-hander Dan Altavilla against the right-handed Springer in that spot.

“I thought Marco threw the ball really well today. It was probably one of the better outings he’s had for us,” Servais said. “I liked how he was throwing the ball. He was aggressive; he was finishing hitters off. I just thought where we were at in the ballgame, that third time through the lineup and where they were at the top of the lineup, I liked our matchup better (with Altavilla). It didn’t work out. But there comes a point in these games where you have to make a decision and I wanted to give us every chance to keep us in it.”
Altavilla walked Springer and then gave up a three-run double to Altuve, the reigning American League MVP. On an 0-1 pitch, Altuve reached to hit a slider that was off the plate away and lift it just over the head of right fielder Mitch Haniger, who appeared to be positioned shallow on the play.

Max Stassi and Reddick later hit solo homers for Houston. In the eighth, catcher David Freitas doubled to drive in Guillermo Heredia for the Mariners’ first run. Jean Segura added an RBI double to make it 6-2, before the Astros scored three more runs in the ninth inning.

“We’ve been playing very good ball (and) got shut down for a couple days. It is a long season,” Servais said. “That’s a very good team over there. We know that. We’re going to play them a lot. We understand that. I think we’ve got to take the experience, what we’ve learned — how they attacked us, how they pitched us — and hopefully be better off for it the next time we see them.

“It’s not the last that we’ll see the Astros — nor they’ll see of us.”