By Andrew Erickson and Brian McTaggart
SEATTLE -- Colby Rasmus clubbed a two-out, two-run home run in the seventh inning off reliever Tom Wilhelmsen and George Springer homered in the ninth to help the Astros win for the sixth time in eight games, 6-2, over the Mariners on Sunday afternoon at Safeco Field.
Rasmus' 10th homer of the year came after Chris Carter had drawn a two-out walk, and it gave the Astros a 5-2 lead. Houston took a 3-1 lead in the fifth when shortstop Brad Miller let an Evan Gattis two-out grounder roll through his legs, and Robinson Cano's sac fly in the bottom of the inning made it 3-2.
"That was a good win for us and we had to use a lot of bullpen," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch, whose bullpen held the Mariners to two hits and one run in 5 2/3 innings. "We had to wait out their guy. You know, tack on some runs at the end and then just an overall good win. Contributions by a number of guys, especially the bullpen."
Seattle starter J.A. Happ allowed three runs (two earned) and seven hits in five innings, needing 101 pitches. But he was more efficient that Astros rookie starter Vincent Velasquez, who allowed one run and two hits in 3 1/3 innings. He threw 93 pitches, including 43 in the first inning alone.
"I thought J.A. pitched behind in the count early in the ballgame, but as the game went on I thought he started to find his groove," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. "Really, if you think about it, he pitched well enough to win the day."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Pitch count pests: After walking four times in the second inning against Dallas Keuchel on Saturday night, the Mariners' patience at the plate continued against Velasquez. Seattle tallied just one run in the first inning, but walks by Logan Morrison, Cano and Seth Smith pushed Velasquez's pitch count to 43 as the Mariners sent seven hitters to the plate before leaving the bases loaded to end the first.
Through the wickets: With two outs and runners on first and second base in the top of the fifth inning, Gattis hit a ground ball to Mariners shortstop Miller that would have bailed Happ out of the inning. But the ball dribbled between Miller's legs and into left field, allowing Astros catcher Jason Castro to score Houston's third run of the game. Happ got Rasmus looking two batters later to get out of the inning without any more damage, but was pulled after five. More >
More power to them: Considering the Astros lead the Major Leagues in home runs, there are power threats up and down the lineup. So when Wilhelmsen walked slugger Carter with two outs in the sixth and his team trailing by a run, Rasmus made him pay with a two-run homer. Springer's homer in the ninth extended the Astros' franchise record of consecutive games with multiple homers to eight. More >
"It definitely feels good any time myself or my teammates hit a home run in a situation like that or any time during the game to give us the lead with the way our bullpen has done," Rasmus said.
Velasquez limits damage in 43-pitch inning: As much as Velasquez had to toil during a first inning in which he threw 43 pitches -- including 20 before he even recorded an out -- things could have been worse. A out-out walk to Smith loaded the bases, but he struck out Miller and held the Mariners to one run, keeping the Mariners from blowing it open. More >
"I will say getting out of that first inning with one run, regardless of how he sort of got through it, was a real key in this game," Hinch said.
"I wouldn't say effectively wild, I think he was just wild. And then when he did throw the ball in the zone, he's got such good stuff, it's hard to center him and we just come away with one run." -- McClendon, on the Mariners' at-bats against Velasquez in the first inning
"That's about as many pitches as you can throw in the shortest amount of time, I think, probably in the history." -- Hinch on Velasquez's 93-pitch outing in 3 1/3 innings.
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Springer is hitting .381 with 16 runs scored, four doubles, six homers, nine RBIs and nine walks in 26 games in the leadoff position.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros:In what's expected to be Jose Altuve's return to the lineup after missing four games with a strained hamstring, the Astros will send lefty Brett Oberholtzer (2-1, 2.73 ERA) to the mound to face the Angels at 9:05 p.m. CT Monday in Anaheim. After starting the season going 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA in his first three starts, which were interrupted by a DL stint, Oberholtzer has gone 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in his last two starts, including eight scoreless June 12 vs. Seattle.
Mariners:Felix Hernandez (10-3, 3.08 ERA) looks to become the American League's first 11-game winner Monday when he faces the Royals for the 12th time in his career at 7:10 p.m. PT at Safeco Field. Hernandez earned his 10th win of the season Wednesday, throwing eight scoreless innings to outduel Madison Bumgarner and lead the Mariners to a 2-0 win over the Giants.