SEATTLE - Joe Saunders continued his mastery at Safeco Field on Monday night, only this time the hometown fans were on his side. And it didn't hurt that the Houston Astros were the team going against him.
Saunders, who had a 6-0 record and 2.13 ERA as an opposing pitcher at Safeco Field, pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings for Seattle on Monday to spearhead a 3-0 win over Houston in the Mariners' home opener.
It marked the sixth loss in a row for the Astros, who have scored three runs or fewer in every game since the season-opening win over Texas. Houston (1-6) is batting .201 with just two home runs for the season, and Monday marked the third time this season that the Astros have been shut out.
Saunders (1-1) was all too happy to keep the Astros' bats quiet again Monday. The veteran left-hander, who struggled in his Mariners debut last week, scattered six hits and a walk while striking out five in 6 1/3 innings of work. Relievers Carter Capps, Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen closed out the shutout victory.
Seattle (4-4) used timely hitting and opportunistic base-running to forge a 3-0 lead after five innings. Michael Saunders scored two runs, both on Kendrys Morales singles, before a Franklin Gutierrez squeeze bunt scored Dustin Ackley from third in the bottom of the fifth.
Monday marked the debut of the Mariners' renovated field. The fences have been moved in, but the Mariners didn't need much power Monday.
Astros starter Philip Humber (0-2) allowed just five hits in six innings of work but got no runs of support for the second time in as many starts this season.
The Mariners twice came close to hitting home runs over the right-field wall, but long fly balls off the bats of Morales and Kyle Seager sailed harmlessly into the stands just outside of the foul pole.
Humber, who threw a perfect game the last time he visited Safeco Field in April 2012, needed only two pitches to lose his bid Monday. The Mariners' Michael Saunders tagged Humber's second pitch to left field for a leadoff single. Saunders then came around to score on a Morales single for a 1-0 Seattle lead.
Seattle's offensive duo struck again in the bottom of the third, when Morales floated a double into the left-center-field gap to score Saunders again to take a 2-0 lead.
Joe Saunders got off to a good start while getting help from his defense. Center fielder Gutierrez saved an extra-base hit when he made a diving catch in right-center for the first out in the top of the third inning.
Joe Saunders gave up a pair of singles in the first two innings before retiring seven consecutive batters.
Notes: Before the game, the Astros placed right-handed reliever Josh Fields on the 15-day disabled list due to a strained right forearm. Pitcher Paul Clemens was called up from Triple-A to take his roster spot. ... Tuesday could mark the fifth time in the first nine games of the season that Seattle has faced a left-handed starter, with former Mariner Erik Bedard scheduled to take the hill for the Astros.