HOUSTON -- On a Mariners offense looking for a spark, rookie Mitch Haniger provided a little light on Thursday and the rest of the team jumped on board late as Seattle broke out of its early-season slumber for a 4-2 victory over the Astros to avoid a series sweep at Minute Maid Park.
The 26-year-old right fielder smacked his first homer of the season and scored Seattle's first two runs while going 2-for-4 with a walk. For the Mariners, that served as a shining moment from an opening series in which the club combined to score just eight runs on 23 hits in 40 innings and went a woeful 3-for-36 with runners in scoring position.
Fortunately for the Mariners, two of those hits with runners in scoring position came in the top of the ninth when Jarrod Dyson and Jean Segura delivered. But up to that point, it was Haniger supplying the only juice for a Seattle team expected to have one of the more potent offenses in baseball.
"He's a rookie. It's going to take him a while to get comfortable," said manager Scott Servais. "The league is going to pitch him certain ways and see what he can handle. That was a big home run, he hit another ball hard, his at-bats were solid all night.
"He has no panic. He has been struggling like a lot of our guys. He believes in his approach and as long as he sticks with that and doesn't get jumping all over the board, he's going to be fine."
Haniger's home run came in an excellent at-bat in the third when he fell behind 0-2 on Astros right-hander Joe Musgrove, worked the count to full and then drove a sinker deep over the left field wall. Statcast™ projected the distance at 405 feet
"Just trying to battle, take advantage of good pitches and stay off the sliders he was trying to get me to swing at and look for something to drive 3-2," Haniger said. "I'm just trying to be short [with his swing] and see the ball better. With more at-bats, that starts to come easier."
Musgrove said Haniger saw enough of his pitches in that at-bat to make the adjustment.
"My sinker had some good movement today and I had some success with it against him and some other hitters," Musgrove said. "I think me and [catcher Brian] McCann both thought it was a good pitch, it just wasn't very well-executed. Maybe I showed him one too many that at-bat."
Haniger then singled and scored Seattle's second run of the game in the sixth and later doubled Norichika Aoki off first base with a throw from right field after Aoki got a bad read on a line drive by George Springer in the seventh.
The Mariners feel Haniger is a five-tool player who can help them with defense, speed, power and his bat this season. Like the rest of the club, he got off to a slow start in the first series, but his teammates know what he's capable of doing in the No. 2 spot in the lineup behind Segura.
"Han is doing his job," Dyson said. "For a guy without that much time in the big leagues, coming around veteran guys and being in the show, he's looking to make a name for himself and I think he's doing a great job of it. He gets things going for us. When Jean's not, he's doing it. It's good to feed off that."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.