Booming bats, no-hit McCullers lift Astros over M's
By Greg Johns and Chandler Rome
HOUSTON -- Evan Gattis tied his career high with a four-hit afternoon and Houston pounded out 14 hits as a team, while rookie Lance McCullers tossed five hitless innings in his sixth Major League start to propel the Astros to a 13-0 win in the rubber match on Sunday against Seattle. Luis Valbuena and Marwin Gonzalez each went deep for Houston.
McCullers, pulled prior to the sixth at 90 pitches with the no-hitter still intact, issued a career-high four walks and battled an elevated pitch count. Reliever Tony Sipp surrendered the first hit with one out in the sixth -- a double down the third-base line from Austin Jackson.
"I had to battle from the first pitch on," McCullers said. "I knew that I didn't have the same stuff that I usually did, but thankfully I had good defense behind me today and [catcher] Hank [Conger] helped me battle through."
Jackson's hit was one of only two for Seattle, which reverted back to its anemic offensive ways after Saturday's eight-run barrage. The Mariners got only 3 1/3 innings from starter Roenis Elias -- the shortest start of his season.
"It wasn't much of a game," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, whose team has been outscored, 67-27, in its past nine games at Minute Maid Park since last September. "Turn the page and get ready for San Francisco."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Gattis reignited: Gattis entered Sunday 1-for-7 in the series and just 5 for his last 32, but he cranked out four hits by the fifth inning, coming around to score in the first, third and fourth. The four-hit game was the second in Gattis' career; the first came against the Phillies on April 16, 2014.
"It's good to see a first-pitch ball," Gattis said. "For whatever reason. First at-bat, see a fastball, ball. Then, after that, I just got good pitches to hit." More >
Mariners on (warning) track: Seattle tested the Astros' outfielders in the second inning, but came up empty. After McCullers issued a leadoff walk to Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager launched a deep drive to right that was hauled in by George Springer. Logan Morrison then crushed a ball that center fielder Jake Marisnick caught up to just in front of the fence in left-center. And Springer ended the inning with an excellent running catch on the warning track in right-center on a well-hit ball in the gap by Dustin Ackley. That was about as big a threat as the Mariners could muster against the 21-year-old rookie.
Atypical McCullers: McCullers, who thrived on high strikeout numbers in his first five starts, notched a career-low four strikeouts and relied more on the defense behind him. He struck out a pair in both the first and fourth innings, but he issued three straight leadoff walks in the second, third and fourth to inflate his pitch count and end his afternoon early. More >
Not a command performance: Elias lacked his normal control as the Mariners starter issued four walks, hit a batter and gave up a career-high eight runs (seven earned) before getting pulled with one out in the fourth. The 26-year-old southpaw had just 19 walks in 58 innings coming in, but he issued three in the third inning alone, including a bases-loaded pass to Gonzalez that helped lead to his early departure.
"He'd been on a roll," said McClendon. "He'd been pitching extremely well for us. This was a tough one." More >
"I came up on it. I thought it was going to bounce up a little, but it stayed down. It was certainly a play I should make. … When you lose 13-0, not a lot goes right." -- Seager, whose first-inning error contributed the unearned run on Elias' tally
"That wasn't the best we've seen of Lance, and that's a great sign. When he can battle through his innings, gets through five scoreless, hitless. A few walks in there that he won't be happy about. If those are his bad days, it's a pretty good day." -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch, on McCullers' outing
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• Elias came into the game with the second-lowest ERA among any AL starter (minimum 18 starts) since last July 21, with a 2.57 mark in 19 outings, trailing only the Astros' Dallas Keuchel (2.12). That number jumped to 3.05 with his career-high eight runs allowed (seven earned) on Sunday.
• The last Astros rookie to carry a no-hitter as deep as McCullers was Jarred Cosart, who took a no-no into the seventh inning on July 12, 2013, during his Major League debut.
The 13-0 win was Houston's fifth shutout of the season, and it marked the club's biggest margin of victory since an 11-run win against San Diego on April 28.
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners:Taijuan Walker (3-6, 5.40 ERA) looks to continue his recent run of success as Seattle opens a two-game Interleague series against the Giants on Monday at 7:15 p.m. PT in the Mariners' first appearance at AT&T Park since 2000. The 22-year-old right-hander is 2-1 with a 1.64 ERA over his last three starts.
Astros: Houston sends ace Keuchel (7-2, 1.90 ERA) to the mound on Monday at 7:10 p.m. CT for the first of a two-game home set with the Rockies. Colorado is one of only six teams Keuchel has never faced in his career.
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.