SEATTLE -- James Paxton proved dominant again in his second start for the Mariners, and this time the lanky lefty got some timely run support as Seattle topped Houston, 6-0, in its home opener Monday afternoon at Safeco Field.
Paxton threw seven innings of shutout ball on four hits and is unscored upon in two outings -- both against the Astros -- with just six hits, three walks and 13 strikeouts over 13 frames.
"With what happened this last week and especially yesterday, we needed to bounce back, and I felt strongly that we would," Mariners manager Scott Servais said as his team rebounded from a 1-6 road trip that ended by blowing a six-run lead in Anaheim. "It really started with Paxton. Awesome job keeping a very good hitting team down. He was the story of the day for our club."
Carlos Correa had three hits off Paxton, including two infield singles, but the Astros never pushed a runner past second against the hard-throwing 28-year-old.
"Paxton was really tough. We didn't really put a ton of stress on him, except for the two innings -- in the fourth and then his last inning, the seventh," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "You don't get a lot of opportunities against him; we haven't, at least in the last two games we faced him. And then obviously we got out of a few jams of our own until they started to break it open a little bit."
Nelson Cruz snapped out of an early-season slump with a two-run, bases-loaded single off Astros starter Charlie Morton in the fifth, and Kyle Seager followed with a sacrifice fly to spot Paxton a 3-0 lead. Cruz was 2-for-26 on the season until he singled in his final three at-bats.
Morton gave up seven hits and three runs over five innings before being lifted after 89 pitches. He's 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts, both against Seattle.
The Astros dropped their first road game of the season, evening their record at 4-4, while Seattle won its second in a row over Houston after losing the first three games at Minute Maid Park last week.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED RISP-y business: The Mariners struggled mightily with runners in scoring position the first week, hitting an MLB-low .140 (8-for-57) coming into the game. That trend continued early, when they loaded the bases in the fourth on a walk by Robinson Cano and singles by Cruz and Seager, only to see Morton strike out Danny Valencia and Leonys Martin and get Mike Zunino to fly out to right. But Cruz finally broke up the scoreless duel in the fifth with his two-run single. And though they still only went 3-for-15 with RISP, the Mariners did tack on sacrifice flies by Seager and Valencia as well as an RBI single by rookie Mitch Haniger once they got rolling.
"The strikeouts got us there in the fourth, but we responded," Servais said. "We have a lot of fight in us. We've got some grind in our team." More >
Chances squandered: Correa's third hit of the game -- and third hit for the Astros -- was a leadoff single in the seventh. Carlos Beltran followed with a single, putting runners at first and second with no outs and providing Houston a great scoring chance. Paxton quickly shut the door, retiring Evan Gattis, Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Reddick in succession to end the threat and the inning. Correa struck out with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth against rookie right-hander Dan Altavilla, and Beltran popped out to end that inning.
"We have good players in the clubhouse, great hitters obviously," Correa said. "We still have a lot of games to play for the bats to break in and have a successful season as a team. I do believe in the guys we have in this clubhouse and the talent we have here. I'm not worried about it right now. It's only eight games." More >
"It's different. I'm not in [Triple-A] Tacoma, which is great. I'm enjoying that part of it. But I feel comfortable and really confident in what I'm doing and focusing on the process, one pitch at a time, and so far getting good results that we need." -- Paxton, on how much things have changed since the start of last year
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Paxton joined Felix Hernandez as the only pitchers in Mariners history to open a season with back-to-back starts of six-plus scoreless innings.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Mariners challenged a force play at second in the third inning when shortstop Correa flipped the ball to Jose Altuve on a grounder from Jean Segura with runners on first and second. Altuve was jumping up off the bag for a possible relay throw to first as he received the ball, but the call stood after being reviewed.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Right-hander Joe Musgrove will make his second start of the season when he faces the Mariners for the second time in a week at 9:10 p.m. CT on Tuesday at Safeco Field. Musgrove held the Mariners to two runs, three walks and five hits in five innings Thursday in Houston.
Mariners:Ariel Miranda makes his second start of the season in a rematch with Musgrove in Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. PT game. The 28-year-old lefty allowed two runs on five hits over five innings in a no-decision in Thursday's 4-2 win in Houston.