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Three-run first lifts Mariners over Astros

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- The Seattle Mariners jumped on Houston Astros starter Dallas Keuchel for three runs in the first inning and that was all they needed in a 3-1 victory on Saturday night.

Given the early cushion, Mariners starter Joe Saunders and the bullpen continued their dominance of Houston. Seattle defeated the Astros for the eighth time in their last nine meetings, picking up its third straight win.

Seattle manager Eric Wedge offered a glass-half-full spin on the victory.

"We played sloppy baseball in the second half of the baseball game," Wedge said. "We had some opportunities offensively and misplayed some balls defensively, but in the end, we won the ballgame."

Although Saunders (11-13) didn't put up the inning-eating performance that he's accustomed to, he pitched well enough to keep the Astros in check. Saunders went 5 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and three walks while striking out two.

"I just tried to minimize damage and keep us close," Saunders said. "You want to throw up zeroes after your team scores you three runs."

Saunders acknowledged that he was disappointed when Wedge pulled him in the sixth inning. Wedge called Saunders' performance "erratic," but Saunders argued that he could have stayed in the game.

"In my opinion, I think I could've gotten out of that jam and pitched deeper into the game, but it's one of those things where he felt one guy matchup-wise was better than the other, so what are you going to do?" Saunders said. "I think there's a full moon when I pitch or something because there is some crazy (stuff) going on in my games."

Carter Capps and Yoervis Medina combined to pitch 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, with Danny Farquhar working the ninth to post his 11th save in 12 opportunities since moving into the closer role. Farquhar has retired 48 of his last 59 batters faced since July 28.

The Mariners' early lead was established without an extra-base hit. Brad Miller led off with a single and advanced to third on a Kyle Seager single. Miller was brought home by an infield single from Kendrys Morales. The next batter, Raul Ibanez, walked to load the bases.

A Franklin walk allowed Seager to score, and Morales scored when Dustin Ackley grounded out to first.

Ackley was the first of 12 consecutive batters that Keuchel (5-8) retired until the fifth inning. Keuchel pitched seven innings, allowing four hits, three runs and two walks while striking out eight.

Seattle improved to 2-9 this year when failing to have an extra-base hit.

"I thought there were a couple of plays that were close, but I think that just about sums up our season," Keuchel said. "I couldn't dwell on those because, otherwise, I would have been in a world of hurt. I got out of it and gave us a chance to win."

Keuchel has posted a 1.93 ERA in his last two starts and has not allowed an extra-base hit, but he has failed to get much run support in the process. The Astros have scored one run or fewer in three of his last four starts.

"They didn't really hit any of the balls hard," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "They just happened to hit them in the field where we couldn't make a play. But after that tough first inning, Keuchel settled in and went six strong after that. It was pretty impressive."

Houston out-hit the Mariners eight to six but stranded 10 runners in the process and Seattle stranded six.

"We just can't seem to be able to get the big hit," Porter said. "We've had plenty of opportunities and have had men in scoring position, but it just seems like the big hit is avoiding us at this point. We haven't been able to deliver that big hit to get us out of the rut that we're in, from an offensive standpoint."

The Astros' lone run against Saunders came in the fourth inning when Seattle catcher Humberto Quintero caught Jake Elmore stealing. However, Quintero's throw ricocheted off second baseman Nick Franklin's body, allowing Brandon Barnes to score from third. Franklin was charged with an error on the play.

"We've seen some young mistakes with both Miller and Franklin up the middle, but when you have two young guys there, it's going to happen," Wedge said.

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