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By Scott Johnson, The Sports Xchange April 11, 2013 3:10 AM
Houston Astros woke up Tuesday morning, they were right where everyone expected them to be: flailing their way as the worst offensive team in baseball.SEATTLE -- When the
In less than 48 hours, they have become an offensive juggernaut. For the second game in a row, the Astros powered their way to victory Wednesday night, piling up 15 hits and three home runs in an 8-3 win over the Seattle Mariners. "It feels great when you win a series like that," said Astros designated hitter Chris Carter, who went 3 for 5 and hit his third home run in a span of two games. "It's good for the team to score runs and show we can do that." The Astros (3-6) have been scoring runs at an inexplicable rate lately, having piled up 24 in a two-game span after scoring just 17 in their first seven games. Houston now has its first winning streak of the season one day after snapping a six-game losing streak with Tuesday's 16-9 win over the Mariners. "I'm happy with the way things are coming along," first-year manager Bo Porter said. "Early on, there was no panic, no worry. They've proven they can hit, so we knew they would at some point. Baseball's a game where you live with the ups and you live with the downs." Houston is certainly on an upswing right now, having earned its first series win of the season. In back-to-back wins over the Mariners, the Astros had 37 hits (the most in consecutive games since September 2000) and 24 runs (the most in consecutive games since August 2010). Houston jumped out to a 5-0 lead Wednesday but didn't really put the game away until Carter's two-run home run in the seventh inning turned a two-run game into a 7-3 advantage. During the three-game series in Seattle, Carter went 8 for 15 with three home runs and five RBI. Astros starter Brad Peacock (2-1) gave up two home runs and three runs in five innings Wednesday, but Houston's suddenly explosive offense made sure he didn't need to have his best stuff. Seattle (4-6) lost for the sixth time in eight games while seeing its fan base shrink in numbers but swell in vocal displeasure. The announced crowd of 10,493 broke the previous night's mark of 10,745 as the lowest in Safeco Field history, and those who did come began booing the Mariners in the third inning. Backup catcher Kelly Shoppach gave Seattle an unexpected jolt of offense, as he helped cut into the Astros' early lead with a solo home run and an RBI double. When Franklin Gutierrez chased Peacock from the game with a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the sixth, the Mariners had pulled to within 5-3 and provided a brief sense of hope. When Houston's Marwin Gonzalez capped off the scoring with a solo home run off Seattle reliever Carter Capps in the eighth, it gave Houston eight home runs in a two-game span. The Astros had just two homers in their first seven games. Mariners starter Blake Beavan (1-2) allowed nine runs and four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. He was particularly off his game in the second and third innings, when Houston built its 5-0 lead. "I made some mistakes there in the (three-run) second inning," Beavan said, "getting beat with my fourth-best pitch instead of my second-best pitch. I was over-thinking again and using my slider instead of my changeup." The Mariners' night got off to a rough start when right fielder Michael Saunders came out of the game after Houston's first at-bat. Saunders sprained his right shoulder slamming into the wall while catching a fly ball. Beavan appreciated Saunders' effort. "I went out and checked on him after I got (into the clubhouse), and he said he'd do that all over again," Beavan said. "That shows what kind of teammate he is." After the game, Mariners manager Eric Wedge said Saunders suffered a sprain to his AC joint. "He'll have to miss some time; it's just a matter of how much time," Wedge told reporters. "It could be a DL situation, but we're working through everything right now." Things didn't get much better for Seattle (4-6) after Saunders came out of the game, as the Astros followed their 16-run Tuesday night with another strong start at the plate. J.D. Martinez's sacrifice fly and Rick Ankiel's two-run home run gave Houston a 3-0 lead in the second inning. The lead swelled to 5-0 in the third, when the hometown fans began to turn on the Mariners with a spatter of boos. The anger started when Gutierrez failed to corral a towering, shallow pop fly that shortstop Brendan Ryan lost in the lights. That allowed leadoff hitter Jason Castro to reach second base. After Castro scored on a single by Carlos Pena, Martinez drilled an RBI double into the right-field corner. That gave Houston a total of 21 runs in its past 12 innings since Monday's shutout loss to Seattle. Shoppach hit a solo home run in the third inning and added an RBI double in the fifth to cut Houston's lead to 5-2, then Gutierrez hit a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth to cut the deficit to 5-3 before Houston's Carter went long in the top of the next frame. The win gave Houston its third consecutive series win over Seattle, with the previous two coming in 2004 and 2007. This series win had to be the most surprising, especially after the way Houston was playing during its six-game losing streak. While the Astros suddenly look relevant, the Mariners have to figure out how to win back their fan base. "I like our team," Wedge said. "We have not played well here the last couple of days. We've got guys that are still trying to find themselves, and they will." NOTES: Before the game, the Mariners optioned reliever Lucas Luetge to Triple-A Tacoma and promoted Bobby LaFromboise. The left-hander made his major league debut Wednesday night, pitching a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts. ... Outfielder Casper Wells, who missed out on the Mariners' final roster spot, was claimed off waivers by Toronto. ... Porter didn't mess with success Wednesday, when he trotted out a near identical batting order to the one that erupted for a season-high 22 hits a day earlier. Eight spots were the same, while right fielder Ankiel replaced first baseman Brett Wallace as the No. 7 hitter. Pena moved to first base, leaving Carter to serve as the designated hitter. ... Left fielder Michael Morse was not in the Mariners' lineup for the first time this season.