SEATTLE -- Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker struck out a career-high 11 in 6 1/3 innings and Astros ace Dallas Keuchel gave up three home runs Saturday as Seattle topped Houston, 6-3, for its second straight win over the American League West leaders.
Walker (5-6, 4.94 ERA) gave up three runs on five hits, including solo homers by Evan Gattis and Luis Valbuena in the second. The Mariners responded with three solo shots of their own off Keuchel, with Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith and Mark Trumbo all going deep off a pitcher who'd allowed just four homers in his first 101 1/3 innings this season.
"After getting spotted two runs early, off a good pitcher, I've got to take advantage of that and I didn't," Keuchel said. "So hats off to them for being patient and putting some good wood on three pitches."
After struggling at the start of the season, the 22-year-old Walker is 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA over his last five starts. Keuchel (8-3, 2.35) took the loss as Houston fell to 40-30. The six runs were the most Seattle has scored in its past 20 home games as the Mariners improved to 32-37.
"That was an excellent game all the way around," said Trumbo. "They got off to a little bit of a lead and we came right back. If you want to be a good team, you've got to do that. And the way Tai threw the ball, that was pretty dominant."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Walk this way: The Mariners took a page from their new hitting coach Edgar Martinez with a patient approach in the second inning against Keuchel, drawing four walks from the Astros ace, including bases-loaded passes to Brad Miller and Austin Jackson that forced in Seattle's first two runs of the game. Cruz and Mike Zunino also walked in the inning, along with a Kyle Seager single, as the Mariners equaled the number of runs they'd scored against Keuchel in 17 innings over their previous two meetings. Keuchel hadn't walked more than three batters in an entire game in his first 14 starts of the season. More >
"I just kind of lost it there in the second and was searching for it after the second," he said. "They took advantage of the pitches they needed to and that was the difference pretty much."
Air Correa: Astros rookie shortstop Carlos Correa made one of the best defensive plays of the season when he leaped high into the air in the sixth inning to snag a Zunino line drive. Correa's arm stretched high over his head to catch the ball, and he nearly did the splits in mid-air on the way down, getting a huge ovation from the appreciative Mariners fans. More >
"Honestly, I thought I'd have a chance," Correa said. "I just jumped just right to try to reach for it and you know by the time I caught it, when I looked at the video I was like, 'Wow that was a good play.'"
Cruz back in business: Cruz hit 18 homers in his first 46 games for the Mariners. It took him 21 more games to get his 19th as Cruz clubbed a Keuchel offering over the left-center-field fence in the third inning to give Seattle a 3-2 lead. Cruz went 83 plate appearances since his last long ball on May 27 at Tampa Bay. The blast was projected by Statcast™ to land 409 feet from home plate and puts him one behind the Angels' Albert Pujols for the American League lead. More >
"He hit that ball pretty good," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. "He's been swinging pretty good. He hadn't hit a lot of home runs, but I believe they come in bunches for home run hitters. You could say the same thing about Trumbo."
"It was a necessity. They put good at-bats on you over there. In my mind this was a big win for us and we needed to have it. It was just the way it was and he went out and got it done." -- McClendon on using rookie Carson Smith for his first four-out save
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Keuchel was just the third left-handed starter the Mariners have faced since May 24, but Cruz has feasted on southpaws when given the chance. Seattle's slugger leads the AL in hitting against lefties with a .413 average with seven home runs in 46 at-bats.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Third base umpire Mike DiMuro called fan interference on a Gattis popup down the third-base line for the final out in the sixth on a ball that Mariners shortstop Miller appeared to have a bead on until a gloved spectator reached over the short rail and deflected it just before it reached Miller's own mitt. Astros manager A.J. Hinch challenged the call and then was ejected after arguing with DiMuro after the call was upheld following the replay review. More >
"Every out matters, and I felt like they took one away from us," Hinch said. "I don't understand you can assume a catch when a guy is running full speed from shortstop, crashing into a wall, a fan interferes and we say 'catch.'"
WHAT'S NEXT Astros:The Astros could have All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve back in the lineup on Sunday when they face the Mariners at 3:10 p.m. CT at Safeco Field. Altuve has been dealing with a hamstring strain, but is close to returning. Rookie right-hander Vincent Velasquez (0-0, 4.66) will make his third Major League start, looking to pitch into the sixth inning for the first time in his brief big league career.
Mariners: Left-hander J.A. Happ (3-3, 3.79 ERA) takes the mound against the Astros for the third time this season. The Mariners have lost each of the last four games in which Happ has pitched, including his most recent outing Tuesday in San Francisco in which Happ lasted seven innings and allowed just three runs. Happ's last win came on May 9 in a home start against the A's.