HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve singled in Marwin Gonzalez with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning on Thursday as the surprising Astros beat the Mariners, 3-2, recording their seventh straight win with a walk-off at Minute Maid Park that hiked their American League West-leading record to 15-7.
"There's an energy about this team when the game's on the line … it's just locked in," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "We had the right guy up at the end. Just a big win at home tonight, with a walk-off like that, I'm not sure you could script it much better."
Houston completed April with its best winning percentage (.682) since going 14-6 in 1986 and has won 11 of its past 12.
The Mariners saw their three-game win streak snapped despite a strong start from James Paxton as Seattle fell to 10-12. The Mariners had Logan Morrison perched at third with one out in the top of the ninth, but couldn't get the go-ahead run across against relievers Tony Sipp and Pat Neshek.
"We didn't play very well tonight," said Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon after his club lost, despite out-hitting the Astros, 11-7. "It was one of those games that looked extremely close and it's because we kept it close. We had opportunities certainly to put some runs on the board and we didn't do it. Those things happen, but we have to move on."
Paxton and Scott Feldman dueled to a 2-2 tie through seven innings. Paxton was much improved from his previous three outings for Seattle, but remains 0-2 in five starts after giving up five hits with seven strikeouts and lowering his ERA to 5.74. Feldman gave up two runs in the first, then settled in and got through seven on eight hits. He remains 2-2 with a 4.31 ERA.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Dink and dunk: The Mariners loaded the bases in the first with no outs against Feldman with three singles that never reached the outfield grass as Seth Smith squibbed a ball down the third-base line against the shift and Austin Jackson and Robinson Cano followed with infield singles to short. Feldman limited the damage by getting Nelson Cruz to ground into a double play that scored one run before Kyle Seager drove the only well-struck hit of the frame -- an RBI single to left -- that gave Seattle a quick 2-0 lead.
Double, double (out of) trouble: Feldman scuffled his way through seven innings, but it's hard to argue with the results. The veteran hurler walked just two and allowed two runs before retiring 10 of the last 11 batters he faced. He was aided by a couple early double-play balls that minimized damage following a barrage of Mariners baserunners in the opening two innings. During the first frame, Feldman coaxed American League home run leader Cruz into a bases-loaded 6-4-3 double play that still scored a run, but kept the game from getting out of hand immediately. A nearly identical double-play ball ended the second inning and Feldman largely settled down after that.
"Just one of those innings you just have to keep your head above water," Feldman said. "A frustrating inning, but I obviously got a lot of help from my defense."
Walk it off, Jose: You could say it was just old hat for Altuve by now, what with his eighth multi-hit game in a row. But a walk-off hit signaled new territory, even for the reigning American League batting champ. The walk-off knock was the first of his career. Hinch said there's nobody you'd rather have up in that situation. Altuve is now batting .367 in 2015, has 12 RBIs in the last nine games and leads the American League in stolen bases -- 9-for-11. More >
"I was trying to go low and away with the sinker. It was just a bad pitch. That was middle-middle and he did what he's supposed to do with it. He just turned and pulled it down the line." -- Mariners reliever Dominic Leone on Altuve's winning hit
"I told him he's our defensive specialist. That's a big man diving a long way and getting a critical out." -- Hinch about slugger Chris Carter's diving catch on Jackson's sacrifice bunt attempt in the 10th inning
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When Cano singled in the first, it snapped an 0-for-18 streak for the six-time All-Star that matched the longest hitless stretch in his career. The Mariners second baseman saw his average plummet from .304 to .244 during that four-game dry spell, but went 2-for-5 Thursday and is now batting .253.
Mariners rookie reliever Carson Smith threw a 1-2-3 eighth in relief of Paxton, giving him 18 1/3 scoreless innings to start his career, dating back to September. Smith broke Mark Lowe's club record of 17 2/3 scoreless innings to open a career, set in 2006. Smith extended his team record of consecutive scoreless appearances to 20, including 11 this season.
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners: Southpaw Roenis Elias makes his second start in place of the injured Hisashi Iwakuma as the Mariners face the Astros in the second game of the four-game series at Minute Maid Park at 7:10 p.m. CT. Elias pitched fairly well in a no-decision against the Twins (two runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings) in his first start. He put up a 1.59 ERA in two starts against the Astros last year as a rookie, both games at Safeco Field..
Astros: Houston counters with a replacement starter of its own for an important divisional tilt on Friday, as long reliever Samuel Deduno is the probable starting pitcher while the Astros struggle to find a fifth man in the rotation. Deduno has 42 career starts, so this is nothing new for him, and he is 3-1 with a 1.29 ERA in five appearances (four starts) against the Mariners.