Starter Taijuan Walker pitched his way out of trouble early and finished strong, throwing seven good innings before the Mariners held on for a 3-2 win over the Houston Astros Monday night (box). Seattle’s fifth win in six games put the Mariners (10-9) over .500 and in first place in AL West for the first time since the opening night win over Texas. Seattle hasn’t been two games over .500 since the conclusion of the 2014 season.
Having thrown 102 pitches and struck out the side in the sixth, Walker came out for the seventh and provided an unexpected encore. Walker needed just 14 pitches to strike out the side again, matching his career high of 11 strikeouts while preserving a 3-1 lead.
Walker’s 116 pitches showed he became better as the game wore on. Six strikeouts in a row was one of the most impressive feats of his career. He allowed one run off six hits. His ERA is 1.44 after four starts.
After setup man Joel Peralta gave up a run in the eighth, closer Steve Cishek pitched himself into and out of trouble to earn his fifth save, and the 100th of his career. Cishek gave up a pair of singles and a walk, but a caught-stealing and Jose Altuve’s game-ending ground-out helped clean up the mess.
Former Mariner Doug Fister, making his first Safeco Field start since April 16, 2013, struggled with command while issuing a career-high seven walks.
Seattle had four hits, but three resulted in RBIs. 3B Kyle Seager and CF Leonys Martin homered, solo shots as the Mariners took a 2-1 lead in the fourth. In the fifth, 2B Robinson Cano’s single drove in SS Ketel Marte with what proved to be the winning run.
Seattle leadoff hitter LF Nori Aoki walked twice, the second game in a row in which he’s drawn a pair of walks; through the first 17 games of the season, Aoki had two.
“(Taijuan) pretty much willed us to victory. We had four hits and he took it in his own hands. He was pretty incredible.” – Seager
“I never thought I’d be saying I have 100 saves in my career.It’s really a blessing. I’ll celebrate it tonight but forget about it real soon.” — Cishek
The Mariners are 2-5 at home and 8-4 on the road. Houston has a 2-8 road record . . . The Mariners are 7-0 when scoring four or more runs, 2-9 when scoring three or less . . . Fister has started in Seattle three times as a road pitcher since being traded to Detroit midway through the 2011 season, along with P David Pauley, for LHP Charlie Furbush, OF Casper Wells, minor-league 3B Francisco Martinez and RHP Chance Ruffin. Fister is 1-1 with a 1.35 ERA in three career starts against the Mariners . . . Seattle C Chris Iannetta made a big throw to catch Carlos Gomez trying to steal second base in the bottom of the ninth. Gomez made the second out, and the Astros stranded runners at first and third to end the game.
RHP Nathan Karns (1-1, 5.28 ERA) and the Mariners are hoping to extend the early-season struggles of Houston LHP Dallas Keuchel (2-2, 3.71 ERA). The Astros’ ace gave up six runs and 13 hits in his last start, and was tagged for three home runs the last time he pitched at Safeco Field.