SEATTLE -- The Mariners got a sterling start from Taijuan Walker and made the most of their opportunities at the plate in a 3-2 victory over the Astros on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series between the American League West rivals at Safeco Field.
Seattle, which had only won one of its first six games at Safeco earlier in the year, returned to its home ballpark and prevailed in a tight game that showcased brilliant starting pitching by Walker and resilience by Astros right-hander Doug Fister on a night in which he didn't enter with his best command.
"We've really seen that he has the ability to turn the dial up," Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Walker. "Later in games there's plenty in the tank. The adrenaline gets flowing, he gets a little emotional and he gets after it. He doesn't back off. He keeps going after it and he's got good stuff. He believes in himself and we certainly believe in him."
The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Walker walked Tyler White and gave up back-to-back singles by Evan Gattis and Carlos Gomez. But Seattle struck back in the bottom of the third, when Leonys Martin led off the frame by golfing a Fister breaking ball into the right-field seats to knot the score at 1-1.
Kyle Seager picked a good time to hit the 100th home run of his career, doing so with one out in the fourth on a solo bolt to right-center field that gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead. That was extended to 3-1 in the fifth when Robinson Cano singled home Ketel Marte. Fister hung in for Houston, giving up only those three runs in a six-inning outing in which he issued a career-high seven walks and threw 113 pitches.
"We had plenty of opportunities and couldn't cash in enough runs," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We had plenty of hits. I thought we controlled the strike zone fairly well. Had a couple key at-bats where we didn't. But again it's the story of the last couple weeks where we beat ourselves a little bit. With a couple decisions, a couple miscues in a close games, these are continuing to haunt us."
Walker struck out the last six batters he faced to finish off a season-high, seven-inning effort in which he struck out a career-high-tying 11 batters while throwing a career-high 118 pitches. Steve Cishek held Houston scoreless in the ninth for his 100th career save.
"I felt good, and I was just fired up, especially in those last two innings, being able to go out, even with a high pitch count," Walker said. "I felt good. I felt strong toward the end."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Seager century mark: Seager unloaded on a Fister pitch in the bottom of the fourth inning, hitting a solo home run to right center field that gave the Mariners a lead and achieved a personal milestone in the process. Seager's homer was the 100th of his career.
Fister walks on the wild side: Despite seven walks from Fister, surprisingly none of the Seattle batters that reached base came around to score. Instead, what did Fister in was a pair of solo homers by Martin and Seager, but the walks did extend his pitch count to 113 through six innings. More >
"Those things really irritate me, as it does [Hinch] I'm sure," Fister said. "Like I say, some could have gone either way, but at the same time I've got to make them hit it and can't rely on anybody else but our defense and my sinkers and my repertoire."
Walker finishes in style: Walker punctuated his sterling outing by striking out the side in the sixth and seventh innings to finish his night. Walker got Colby Rasmus, Tyler White and Gattis in the sixth and Gomez, Luis Valbuena and Erik Kratz in the seventh. More >
Lost chances: The Astros were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, squandering a couple of good opportunities late. Carlos Correa singled home George Springer in the eighth to cut the lead to 3-2, but Correa was caught stealing. Gomez was caught stealing after his one out single in the ninth, and it loomed large as the next two batters reached before Jose Altuve grounded into a game-ending fielder's choice.
"I have to check the video to see if he got max lead, max jump," Hinch said. "I mean, he's trying to get to the next base and be aggressive. Cishek (has) a pretty quick delivery. So I'll have to see what he saw in order to go. Obviously the net result is not ideal. But his aggressiveness, he's trying to get to the next base to where we can score on a single."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Astros are 6-14 after 20 games for the third time in the last four years (also, 2013 and '14). Last year, they were 13-7.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Dallas Keuchel (2-2, 3.71 ERA), who took the loss Thursday in Arlington after allowing six runs and a career-high 13 hits in six innings, gets the start in Tuesday's 9:10 p.m. CT game against the Mariners. He is 5-8 with a 5.77 ERA on the road since the start of last season, including 1-2 with a 5.30 ERA in three road starts this year.
Mariners: Seattle continues its three-game series against Houston with a 7:10 p.m. PT start on Tuesday. Right-hander Nathan Karns (1-1, 5.28 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Mariners. He took a no-decision in his last start on April 21 at Cleveland, allowing four runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings.