SEATTLE -- Jose Altuve continued to haunt the Mariners with a four-hit day, Carlos Gomez added a grand slam and Collin McHugh pitched six scoreless innings as the Astros rolled to an 8-1 series-clinching victory on Sunday at Safeco Field.
Altuve had three RBIs and launched his 15th homer while lifting his season average to .438 (21-for-48) in 13 games against Seattle. McHugh (6-6, 4.25 ERA) has also enjoyed the division rivalry as he's now 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three starts vs. the Mariners after a four-hit, 10- strikeout performance.
"That's a hard one to describe because I don't know how many games we've ever seen where you have that many free passes, that many strikeouts, that many double plays," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I think we only got five outs on defense that weren't strikeouts or double plays. We had separated ourselves with the grand slam, but it never felt particularly good for us."
Mike Montgomery, making his second start for Seattle after moving into the rotation just before the All-Star break, gave up seven hits and four runs (three earned) with seven strikeouts in five innings as he dropped to 3-4 with a 2.34 ERA.
The Mariners committed a season-high four errors, hit into five double plays and went 0-for-5 with the bases loaded as they fell back to 46-46. The Astros are 9-2 in their last 11 road games and remain 4 1/2 back of Texas in the American League West at 50-42.
"That's hands down the worst game we've played all year," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "We messed up 6-7 plays in the field today. You can't sugarcoat that. It's disappointing, disheartening, whatever. It's going to happen maybe once a year you're going to play a game like that. You just hope it's not against the team that is ahead of you in the standings. Not a whole lot of positives to talk about today."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Altuve thrives at DH: The All-Star started his sixth game this season at designated hitter and went 4-for-5 with three RBIs, including a two-run homer in the third inning. The homer tied his career high for a season. Altuve, who lamented dropping an unsuccessful bunt with the potential tying run on second base in the ninth inning of Saturday's 1-0 loss, had three singles as well and is 10-for-21 as a DH this season. More >
"Everybody was talking to me [about the bunt] and saying it was a good situation to swing the bat, with a man at second and he's already in scoring position the guys behind me -- Correa, [Luis] Valbuena swinging the bat good," Altuve said. "Today I went up there and wasn't thinking about bunting. I was thinking to hit the ball, drive the ball and I felt really good at the plate today."
Seeing the errors of their ways: A trio of Mariners miscues in the first two innings alone gave the Astros one unearned run, with Kyle Seager unable to catch a throw from catcher Jesus Sucre that allowed Marwin Gonzalez to trot home after stealing third in the first. In addition to the errors, left fielder Seth Smith also lost a fly ball in the sun that was ruled a double for Evan Gattis. Seattle also committed a costly mental error on the basepaths, with Leonys Martin not scoring from second on a drive off the wall by Nelson Cruz in the third.
"The errors, you can go down the list," Servais said. "We missed cutoff men, we don't throw to the right base, we don't field bunts, drop balls, don't situational hit. You can go through the whole gamut. It's disappointing, there's no other way to put it. We're professionals and the guys are disappointed in their efforts as well."
McWhew: McHugh escaped bases-loaded jams in the first and third innings. He loaded the bases in the first with a pair of one-out walks and a hit batter before getting Seager to strike out and Dae-Ho Lee to ground out. Seattle loaded them up with no outs in the third, and McHugh struck out Seager and got Lee to hit into a 4-6-3 double play -- one of five double plays turned by the Astros, including three behind McHugh. More >
"I have to buckle down and understand you have to make your best pitches of the day with those guys on and guys in scoring position and we were able to do that," McHugh said.
What might have been … : Seager had a tough day with three strikeouts -- including two with the bases loaded -- along with a pair of fielding errors. But you have to wonder if things might have turned out differently in this one if Seattle's third baseman hadn't just hooked a foul ball down the line in his first at-bat on an 0-1 changeup from McHugh. Instead of a possible grand slam and a 4-1 lead in the first, Seager wound up whiffing and the Mariners got off on the wrong foot. Seager did deliver an RBI single in the eighth and is hitting .424 with 12 extra-base hits and 13 RBIs over his last 16 games.
"It definitely wasn't a good day," Seager said. "Probably the worst couple innings I've had, so that was not the way you want to start that day. But I'll tell you what, Montgomery picked me up pretty good there for a while. The first inning I certainly didn't help him and I didn't help him after that inning either. I thought he threw the ball pretty well and I didn't back him up at all."
"He pretty much has the green light at life -- stealing, hitting 3-0, hitting 0-0. He's a very gifted player, but he works at it. He's fun to be around," -- Hinch, on Altuve
"We got guys on base. I'll give McHugh some credit. He made some pitches when he had to. We did have him on the ropes a couple times early, we just didn't push anything across. We certainly needed to score more than five runs like we did in this series. That's not going to get it done. Our offense has been better than that. It just didn't happen in this series." -- Servais
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Altuve's 17 career four-hit games put him halfway to Craig Biggio's franchise record of 34 games with at least four hits.
Seager is now 3-for-27 with 11 strikeouts in his career against McHugh.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Servais successfully challenged a foul ball call on a popup down the left-field line that glanced off the glove of Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena just as he reached the line. The call was overturned, giving Robinson Cano a base hit and putting two runners aboard with none out in the third.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers (6-3, 4.35 ERA) takes the mound in Monday's 9:05 p.m. CT series opener against the A's in Oakland. He went 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA in his last five starts before the break, though he lasted just 3 1/3 innings after giving up four runs in his previous outing on July 6 against the Mariners. Still, the Astros have won each of his last five starts.
Mariners: Veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc (1-0, 3.52) gets his fourth start on Monday at 7:10 p.m. PT as the Mariners open a three-game series with the White Sox at Safeco Field. The 31-year-old was outstanding in his first two starts after being acquired from the Blue Jays, but gave up six hits and five runs (four earned) in 3 1/3 innings in his last outing at Houston. This will be his first career start vs. the White Sox.
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.