Happ outduels Hernandez, earns first win to snap Astros' streak
By Greg Johns and Brian McTaggart
SEATTLE -- Veteran southpaw J.A. Happ picked up his first victory for the Mariners with 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball as Seattle snapped the Astros' four-game winning streak with a 3-2 win on Wednesday at Safeco Field.
Happ has been strong in three outings as Seattle's fifth starter and finally got rewarded as he evened his record at 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA by scattering eight hits with no walks and five strikeouts.
Shortstop Jed Lowrie went 3-for-3 with a walk and a double and Chris Carter belted his first home run for the Astros. But after Seattle reliever Yoervis Medina loaded the bases in the eighth, he struck out Carter to end that threat and closer Fernando Rodney stranded runners at the corners in the ninth to preserve the win and improve Seattle to 6-9.
"A win is a win. I don't care how you get 'em," said Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon, who stuck with Medina due to a short-handed bullpen situation even after he walked the bases full. "You never want to see that. He just lost his slot and couldn't get it back. Fortunately he was able to throw a hanging slider that was so bad he couldn't hit it."
Astros manager A.J. Hinch, whose club still sits in first in the American League West at 8-7, said a series win was the "silver lining."
"We kept getting a couple of runners on, or at least one runner on with two outs, and didn't do too much with it early," Hinch said. "The last two innings we definitely had every chance to get at least a tie if not break it open. Give them credit."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Z on a tee: Mariners catcher Mike Zunino has gotten off to a slow start with the bat, but when the young man hits 'em, they tend to go a long way. Zunino, who came in batting .146 on the year, blasted his second home run in the past five days with a shot to left field to lead off the third against Roberto Hernandez and give Seattle a 2-0 lead. Zunino set a Mariners record for catchers with 22 home runs last season when he batted .199 for the season. More >
Carter homers, but can't come through in clutch: Carter, who was second in the Majors last year with 37 home runs, finally connected for his first homer of the season when he walloped a 3-1 pitch from Happ and sent it over the wall in right-center to lead off the seventh inning, but his strikeout with the bases loaded in the eighth punctuated the Astros' struggles to find a clutch hit late. More >
Happ holds on: After sailing through six innings with a 3-1 lead, Happ appeared in trouble in the seventh when he gave up a leadoff home run to Carter and then a single to Colby Rasmus. But as the Mariners hurried to get Medina warmed up, Happ induced a double-play grounder from Jake Marisnick and then retired Jose Altuve on a fly ball on his next pitch. Happ stayed in to get the first batter in the eighth to wrap up his night at 100 pitches. More >
Hernandez works deep: Hernandez worked a season-high seven innings, allowing six hits and three earned runs, though he still wound up with his second loss in three starts with the Astros. After giving up an RBI single to Brad Miller in the fourth inning that put Seattle ahead, 3-0, Hernandez sent down nine of the final 10 batters he faced. More >
"In that situation, that's a game-changing situation. I've got to come up with something there instead of striking out." -- Carter on striking out with the bases loaded to end the eighth
"My God. Prayer works." -- McClendon on getting a strong start from Happ to help his beleaguered pitching staff
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Miller extended his hitting streak to six games for Seattle with a 2-for-3 night that included an RBI single in the fourth. The young shortstop has raised his batting average from .172 to .298 by going 9-for-18 with four RBIs during that stretch and he's hit .464 at Safeco Field in nine games so far (compared to .053 on the road).
Astros hitting coach Dave Hudgens was ejected after the top of the fifth inning by home-plate umpire Lance Barrett. The ejection came after Luis Valbuena struck out looking to end the inning. It's the Astros' first ejection this year.
FIELDS ACTIVATED FROM DL
As expected, the Astros activated right-handed pitcher Josh Fields from the disabled list following Wednesday's game. Fields, who strained his groin late in the spring, will join the team in Oakland on Friday and give the Astros 13 pitchers.The club optioned infielder Jonathan Villar to Triple-A Fresno.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Left-hander Dallas Keuchel will aim for his 11th consecutive quality start for the Astros, who open a three-game series against the A's at 9:07 p.m. CT Friday at the Coliseum in Oakland. Keuchel (2-0, 0.90 ERA) is 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA in 10 starts since Aug. 15, 2014. The last Astros pitcher to have as many consecutive quality starts as Keuchel was Wandy Rodriguez, who had 13 in a row in 2010.
Mariners: After an off-day on Thursday, the Mariners resume their homestand Friday with Felix Hernandez on the hill to face the Twins in a 7:10 p.m. PT matchup. Hernandez is 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA this season and coming off a two-hit, 12-strikeout performance against the Rangers. The King is 7-5 with a 2.08 ERA in 16 games against the Twins, including 3-0 with a 0.79 ERA in four starts over the past three years.