Martin backs Iwakuma as M's outduel Astros

Martin backs Iwakuma as M's outduel Astros

SEATTLE -- Leonys Martin had a triple and double and scored the winning run while Hisashi Iwakuma threw seven scoreless innings to best Lance McCullers as the Mariners outdueled the Astros for a 1-0 win to even their series at Safeco Field on Saturday.

"I try to not miss the fastball. He's really good," Martin said after getting two of Seattle's four hits off McCullers. "He's got a great fastball, good breaking ball and he's tough to hit. These kind of games mean a lot. Kuma did the job, and we played defense the right way. They gave us a chance, and we took it."

Iwakuma surrendered just two hits with one walk and eight strikeouts as he improved to 10-6 with a 4.01 ERA. The veteran right-hander is 9-2 with 3.75 ERA over his past 11 starts for Seattle, which snapped a five-game losing streak to the Astros and inched back above .500 at 46-45.

Servais on Iwakuma's outing

McCullers battled Iwakuma to a scoreless draw until giving up a run in the sixth on a leadoff triple by Martin and an RBI single by Robinson Cano. The 22-year-old right-hander went 5 1/3 innings with one run on four hits and four walks while striking out eight.

"Iwakuma had his secondary pitches going, threw a ton of first-pitch strikes," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We had a hard time adjusting to his secondary pitches, and then obviously the big triple -- infield in, Cano gets a good piece of hitting and gets the run in. We had a couple of good opportunities late. I felt like in the eighth and ninth both, we had guys on base, but we just didn't create enough offense."

The Astros lost for just the second time in their past 10 road games and missed a chance to gain more ground on front-running Texas in the American League West, as both teams lost Saturday to leave Houston 4 1/2 games back at 49-42.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Iwakuma deals: The 35-year-old right-hander isn't known as a strikeout artist, but he kept the Astros off balance by using all his pitches in a masterful outing. Although his fastball was topping out in the upper 80s, Iwakuma showed all his weapons while striking out the side in the sixth as he caught Jason Castro looking at a 3-2 slider, had George Springer down on one knee swinging at a 1-2 splitter and finished off Marwin Gonzalez with a 2-2 cutter. The eight strikeouts equaled his season high, also set against Houston.

Iwakuma's dominant start

"We had a good game plan," Iwakuma said. "We had a meeting with our catcher and pitching coach and had a good idea how they were going to approach it. We were able to command both sides of the plate and up and down, and it worked out well." More >

Altuve laments bunt: Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who entered Saturday leading the AL in batting average and the Major Leagues in hits, admitted he shouldn't have bunted in the ninth inning after Gonzalez led off with a double. Altuve bunted back to the pitcher, and Gonzalez was caught between second and third for an out. Altuve stole third two pitches later, but he wasted an RBI chance.

Cishek makes Gonzalez get out

"I forgot I was hitting third in that situation," Altuve said. "I was thinking about, 'We need that run.' I wasn't thinking about winning the game in the inning. I wanted to put Marwin on third with less than two outs for Carlos [Correa], and I feel like I have to swing the bat right there."

"I was a little surprised Altuve bunted, but we made a good play and went to third base," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "Then you look up and Altuve is standing at third base a couple pitches later. He's that kind of player. He can do so many different things." More >

Of course it was Cano: The Mariners only nicked McCullers for one run, and predictably that came on an RBI single by Seattle's All-Star second baseman, who has hounded the Astros all season. Cano has 20 of his 59 RBIs against Houston and has hit .408 (20-for-49) with six homers in 12 games against the AL West rivals.

Cano's RBI single

"Leonys has had some success against McCullers, getting on some fastballs," Servais said. "That was a big triple, and Robbie found a way to get him in, and that was about it today. We did not have a lot of chances."

McCullers can't survive sixth: McCullers was solid in allowing one run and striking out eight batters, but he ran his pitch count to 97 after striking out Kyle Seager in the sixth and was pulled. The only run he allowed was on Cano's single through a drawn-in infield, and McCullers simply tipped his cap.

McCullers' solid start

"Good hitter, man," he said. "I try not to go back in at-bats and regret things. I threw the fastball by him and had been throwing him a lot of curveballs the last couple of games, and I felt good throwing a fastball there. Got the ground ball I wanted, just a little bit too far to Carlos' right. And that was the difference in the game." More >

QUOTABLE
"Dude is getting paid $30 million a year to do that. Sometimes you make a good pitch and the hitter finds a way," -- McCullers, on Cano's game-winning hit

WHAT'S NEXT
Astros: Right-hander Collin McHugh (5-6, 4.50 ERA) takes the mound in Sunday's 3:10 p.m. CT series finale at Safeco Field. McHugh is searching for his first win since May 30, but he pitched well leading into the All-Star break. He's 0-1 with a 2.87 ERA in his past five starts, during which the Astros have gone 4-1.

Mariners: Lefty Mike Montgomery (3-3, 2.06 ERA) gets his second start in Sunday's 1:10 p.m. PT series finale after spending most of the season in the bullpen. The 27-year-old allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings at Kansas City in the final game before the All-Star break. He is 1-0 with a 1.23 ERA in 14 2/3 innings against the Astros, including one start last season.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.