Mariners, Cano topple Astros 7-4
By Chris Davis
With a smokey Seattle sky as the backdrop the Mariners welcomed the reeling Astros to Safeco Field.
There is much on the line in this series and Felix Hernandez (8-11, 5.62 era) took the hill against Gerrit Cole (11-5, 2.71 era) in the opener of a three game series.
The Mariners welcomed the return of a couple familiar faces; Jean Segura returned to the lineup after the birth of his second child and Ben Gamel was back in right field after tearing the cover off the ball in Tacoma.
Felix’s first inning struggles continued as he gave up a home run to Marwin Gonzalez giving Houston a quick one-run lead to start the game. If Felix is going to be a starter it is time that the Mariners experiment with an opener to start the game; Nick Vincent perhaps?
The Mariners would quickly tie the score in the bottom of the first. After a lead off single by Mitch Haniger and a double by Robinson Cano, Jean Segura slapped a bouncer to short and reached on a throwing error by Carlos Correa, Haniger scored on the play tying the game at 1-1. One batter later, after Cano advanced to third on a wild pitch, Denard Span gave the Mariners the lead with a sac fly to left.
In the 3rd inning the Astros retook the lead on a Gonzalez double that plated Tony Kemp and Alex Bregman. Felix would give up four straight hits to start the inning and then allowed a run on a wild pitch, leaving the Astros with a 4-2 lead.
Ben Gamel welcomed himself back to the big club by notching a single to start the fourth and then scored one batter later when Mike Zunino doubled.
It looked like the Mariners would bring the tying run home when a Cole fastball snuck by Martin Maldonado; but the bad luck continued as the ball ricocheted right back to Maldonado who tagged out Zunino to end the fourth.
The theme at the ballpark was Game of Thrones. Unfortunately Felix’s return to the starting rotation was not as fruitful as (SPOILER!) Jon Snow’s return from the afterlife. Felix was just OK, yet the start was encouraging as he finished the night after allowing 4 earned runs on 5 hits over 6 innings. He recorded six strikeouts and passed Andy Petitte for 40th on the all-time strikeout list. Felix now has 2,449 career strikeouts, all of which have come in a Mariners uniform.
The Mariners did enough to chase Cole after five innings and put themselves in a great position to take advantage of Houston’s middling bullpen.
Through the first five innings the Mariners went 0-8 with runners in scoring position. Mitch Haniger finally came through for the club in the sixth when he slapped a single into center scoring Gamel and bringing the game to a 4-4 tie. Cano followed Haniger with a double the other way setting up runners at second and third for Segura. But Jean struck out to end the threat and the game remained tied.
Dee Gordon got the Mariners 8th inning rally started with an infield single. Haniger followed with a walk and then Robbie Cano stepped to the plate. After taking a ball to start his at-bat Cano lauched a home run out to left center field. Cano’s home run hung in the smoke filled air for what felt like an hour before clearing the wall into the Mariners bullpen, putting the Mariners up 7-4.
Edwin Diaz closed out the game is a 1, 2, 3 ninth inning and the Mariners collected a win in the series opener.
This was the M’s 5th straight win over the defending world champs and the third straight time they have won against Houston’s ace Gerrit Cole.
Game Notes: Denard Span made the defensive play of the game, stealing extra bases from Correa to end the Astros eighth.
Scott Servais was thrown out in the eighth for arguing balls and strikes. It is 100% time for an electronic strike zone.