HOUSTON -- George Springer got the big hits in a pitchers' duel in Houston, as he doubled, homered and scored both of the Astros' runs in their 2-1 win over the Mariners at Minute Maid Park on the Fourth of July.
Houston starter Lance McCullers, who missed his last start because of a blister on his right index finger, combined a killer knuckle-curveball with a couple of big fielding moments to allow only one run, one walk and five hits in seven innings. Seattle put him in serious trouble twice, with runners in scoring position in the first and seventh innings, but the 22-year-old escaped both jams with a pair of double plays at home.
"He had some adversity in the first," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Got out of it on a play that I've never seen in my life in this game, which will teach you that you never know everything … and then in the seventh, he just had to make his pitches one pitch at a time and he did. He got the big double play, obviously."
Seattle's Wade Miley also pitched well, allowing only two runs off seven hits in 6 2/3 innings, but it just wasn't enough to get the win as the Mariners managed just five hits on the day.
"I thought we had them on the ropes there in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and nobody out," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "Unfortunately, we didn't get it done. McCullers had really good stuff. You have to give him credit. He had a good breaking ball, probably one of the better breaking balls we've seen all year."
The win snaps a two-game losing streak for the Astros (44-39) and a four-game winning streak for the Mariners (43-40). Houston has won two straight against Seattle, with the other win coming May 8, tying the season series, 4-4.
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Strikeouts galore: McCullers (4-2, 3.57 ERA) baffled the Mariners all game with a knuckle-curveball that helped him rack up 10 strikeouts. It was the fourth double-digit strikeout game of McCullers' career, and his second this season. The American League's youngest active starting pitcher entered Monday's game ranked second in the AL in strikeouts per nine innings ratio (10.96) since returning from the disabled list on May 13.
"When he's had his breaking ball on, it's as electrifying a pitch as we have on this staff and also in the league," Hinch said. "When he learns a little better fastball command, he can be more dominant than he was today, but his breaking ball was pretty incredible today." More >
Springer dings another: With the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth, Springer drilled a two-out solo homer a Statcast-projected 454 feet, close to the train tracks at Minute Maid Park, to give the Astros the lead. It was Springer's second consecutive game with a home run, and his 19th dinger of the season. He's been one of the Astros' best offensive weapons during their homestand, batting .357 (5-for-14).
"George always seems to contribute even when he's down a little bit," Hinch said. "He'll draw a few walks. He'll steal a few bases. He'll make some electrifying plays in the outfield, but today, he set the tone in the first at-bat. He runs into the wall again to make a catch to end the game. There's no game I feel he plays that he doesn't impact."
Missed opportunity I: The Mariners couldn't make much headway against McCullers, and they missed out on a golden opportunity in the first when Leonys Martin tripled to lead off the game. But Seth Smith and Robinson Cano both struck out, and Martin was easily thrown out trying to score on Cano's whiff. The ball momentarily got away from catcher Jason Castro on Cano's third strike, but Castro quickly tracked it down, fired to first to get Cano, and Martin was thrown out standing up as first baseman Marwin Gonzalez threw home to McCullers for a 2-3-1 double play.
"I was trying to be aggressive a little bit," Martin said. "I was late a little bit. As soon as he turned around to throw to first, I was supposed to go. I'm just trying to score a run."
Missed opportunity II: Seattle had another chance to get to McCullers in the seventh when he loaded the bases with no outs on singles by Cano and Kyle Seager, sandwiched around a walk to Nelson Cruz. But McCullers got Dae-Ho Lee on a comebacker and fired home to start a 1-2-3 double play, then induced a harmless fly out to left by Adam Lind to preserve a 2-1 lead.
"Don't get me wrong. That's a great curve, but we were chasing a lot of bad pitches, including myself," Cano said. " He won the game. We had a situation with the bases loaded … and he got out of that inning. You have to give him credit for the way he pitched, but there's nothing more you can do. We just have to forget about this game today and be ready tomorrow."
"He used every bit of the dimension in right field that he had, which is good, but all's well that end's well in a 2-1 win." -- Hinch, on closer Will Harris almost allowing a home run to Cruz in the top of the ninth
Harris has not allowed an extra-base hit in his 36 appearances this season, which is a franchise record. Harris is 8-for-8 in save opportunities, and his 0.74 ERA is the lowest among AL relievers.
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Seager continued his recent hot streak for Seattle, going 2-for-3 with a double and scoring the team's lone run on a second-inning single by Lee. Seager is 11-for-24 (.458) with six doubles and a homer in his last six games.
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners:Taijuan Walker (4-6, 3.29 ERA) makes his third start against the Astros this year and 11th of his young career in Tuesday's 5:10 p.m. PT game at Minute Maid Park. The 23-year-old right-hander is 5-2 with a 3.98 ERA against Houston.
Astros: Reigning Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel (5-9, 5.13 ERA) takes the mound against the Mariners on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m CT. The Astros ace has struggled this season, but is coming off a win against the Angels.