The Mariners rough up Dallas Keuchel and Astros pitchers in 11-1 victory, winning their fourth consecutive series in the process. Nathan Karns allowed two hits and struck out six in seven shutout innings.
The stay atop the American League West Standings will be longer than one day.
The Mariners enjoyed their time at the top so much that they made sure they remained there in emphatic style with an 11-1 rout of the Astros on Tuesday night at chilly Safeco Field.
Seattle roughed up reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel for five runs, while improving to 11-9 on the season and winning their fourth straight series.
“The key to the game tonight was really Nate Karns, for me,” manager Scott Servais said. “He established it from the get-go. He was going to be in control. When you see that confidence come from your starting pitcher and really good tempo, it really dictates the rest of the game.”
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Karns delivered his best outing of the season, pitching seven shutout innings, giving up two hits with three walks and six strikeouts. The young right-hander had shown pieces of this type of performance in his first three outings. But it all clicked. Karns (2-1) retired the first 10 batters he faced and didn’t allow a hit until one out in the fourth inning.
“I was just tired of not doing what I was capable of doing,” Karns said. “I wanted a good performance. Mel (Stottlemyre) did a great job with the scouting report and made it crystal clear for me. I took great notes watching Taijuan (Walker) doing his thing yesterday and stuck with our scouting report and tried to expose their weaknesses.”
It was a good sign when Karns worked an easy 1-2-3 first inning with three ground ball outs. First inning woes have been a nemesis in his career.
“It was huge,” he said. “That’s been my struggle. So I just went in and started attacking and put them on their heels first rather than nibble around the plate. I had success in the first and kept that approach the rest of the game.
Robinson Cano provided the bulk of the offense, driving in six runs, including a seventh-inning grand slam off reliever Michael Feliz.
The Mariners broke open a 1-0 game in the fifth inning with one out. Chris Iannetta worked a walk against Keuchel. Dae-Ho Lee followed with an infield single on a ground ball deep to shortstop, which is not a misprint. The lumbering first baseman beat out the throw from Carlos Correa. Seth Smith worked another walk to load the bases. For a moment, it looked as though the Mariners might squander the opportunity when Norichika Aoki’s soft ground ball to first base led to a force-out at home.
But Ketel Marte jumped on a 1-1 fastball, slashing a line drive up the middle to score a run to make it 2-0. But the Mariners weren’t finished, Robinson Cano, who came into he game with just three hits in 19 at-bats vs. Keuchel, served a soft bases-loaded liner into left field off the end of the bat, scoring two runs to make it 4-0. The two runs driven in gave Cano 1,000 RBI for his career.
“They showed it on the board today,” Cano said of the milestone. “Those are the memories you can share with your kids. It was big, but it was bigger to come through against a guy like Keuchel. He’s a lefty that’s hard to get a hit against.”
What followed was something that seems to rarely work out for the Mariners. Cano got caught idling between first and second trying to advance on the throw. He stayed hung up in the rundown long enough for Marte to read the play at third and inch toward home. Once Correa threw the ball to first baseman Tyler White in the rundown, Marte sprinted for home. White panicked and tossed the ball into the dirt, but Marte would have beaten the throw regardless, pushing the lead to 5-0.
“Marte took off at the right time,” Servais said. “It’s a tough play to make.”
Keuchel (2-3) worked six innings, giving up the five runs on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
Cano had an interesting seventh inning starting with an embarrassing mental error of forgetting how many outs there were and failing to turn an inning-ending double play on a ground ball to shortstop. Cano took teh throw from Marte on the bag and then started for the dugout, not realizing it was only the second out of the inning.
“That can’t happen,” he said. “Those are the little details that you have to pay attention in the game. Thank God, we were winning 5-0. In a close game, another team is going to take advantage of that. Good thing Karns got a strikeout on (Luis) Valbuena.
Cano atoned for the mistake in the bottom of the inning. The Mariners loaded the bases against Feliz with one out. After working the count to 3-1, Cano fouled off four fastballs that were 95 mph or higher. The sixth fastball landed in the seats in right-center, barely clearing the wall, for Cano’s 10th grand slam of his career and first since Aug. 1, 2012, when he was with the Yankees.
“Well I had to pay him back,” Cano said. “I’ve been in this game so long. That can’t happen. There’s no excuse for that.”
Servais didn’t defend Cano’s mistake.
“His teammates will help handle it,” Servais said. “They did right away. I’m sure that will make the kangaroo court docket. That will get talked about.