HOUSTON--Not this time.
Unlike his previous start in Seattle, the Mariners didn't let Astros pitcher Collin McHugh turn into Nolan Ryan against them.
This result was much more expected. The Mariners banged out eight hits and scored six runs (five earned) off McHugh and knocked him out of the game after four innings. It set an early tone in an 8-7 win at Minute Maid Park on Sunday.
Of course, the Mariners being the Mariners, scoring eight runs didn't mean a drama-free victory. Danny Farquhar picked up his first save of the season, filling in for Fernando Rodney. Farquhar needed to pitch two innings and survive the tying run coming to the plate on four different occasions.
"I didn't want that," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said of the two-inning save. "It is what it is and we were where we were at that time, but he did a great job and our bullpen is cleaned up as a result of it."
The victory meant a series win against a team they should beat, but haven't with any consistency. They are now 3-3 against the Astros this season. And while Friday night's loss was viewed as a frustrating disappointment by fans, the Mariners have still won five of their past six games and seven of their past nine. Seattle is now 14-15.
"We've been playing some crazy games with these guys," Farquhar said. "So to get that last one and take the series and finish it with a strikeout, there was definitely a ----Yes!' factor."
There was a "yes!" factor when Seattle scored a run off McHugh in the first inning. Michael Saunders singled to start the game, advanced to third when McHugh's pickoff move got by first baseman Chris Carter and hustled home on Robinson Cano's ground ball to first.
It was one more run than they scored against McHugh on April 22 when he threw 62/3 ----scoreless innings and struck out 12 batters at Safeco Field.
The Mariners broke open the game in the top of the third. Willie Bloomquist delivered a two-run double to right field to start the rally.
"He's got years behind him," McClendon said. "He knows what he's doing in that situation and he's a tough out."
Bloomquist kept the approach simple.
"I'm just battling right now," Bloomquist said. "I was looking for a strike, first and foremost, something up and something that I could stay inside of and go the other way with, and I got a pitch I was able to handle."
Cano hammered a triple to center to score Bloomquist and Corey Hart singled home Cano to make it 5-1.
Seattle added its last run off McHugh in the fourth on an RBI single from Saunders.
"We are putting good at-bats out there, having purpose to what we're doing," McClendon said. "It's like I told the guys: ----It's not going to always work, but at least give it a chance, at least know what you're doing, what the guy has and what they expect from you.' The guys have swung the bat good the last couple days."
It also helped having seen McHugh recently and adjusting from that previous failure.
"We had no knowledge of him the first time and the young man threw the ball pretty good," McClendon said. "This time I thought we had better at-bats, gave him stressful at-bats. His pitch count was up and we were able to take advantage of it."
The six runs off McHugh were needed because his counterpart--Seattle starter Brandon Maurer--had an up-and-down outing. He was dominant at times and struggled at others, something that has been prevalent in his brief career.
Maurer gave up a solo home run to Alex Presley in the second inning that tied the score at 1-1. Given a 5-1 lead after the third, he gave up two runs in the fourth on Carter's double to left.
His teammates pushed the lead to 7-3 in the fifth and he promptly gave up a solo homer to Jonathan Villar in the bottom of the inning to make it 7-4. Maurer ran into more trouble and had runners on second and third with one out, but McClendon let him work out of it. Maurer retired the next two hitters without yielding any more runs. After five innings and 88 pitches, he was done for the day.
"It was a big hurdle to get over," Maurer said.
The Mariners being the Mariners, victory didn't come easy. John Buck pushed the lead to 8-4 in the eighth inning, lining an RBI single to right field for his third hit of the game.
The four-run cushion was needed. After two scoreless innings of relief from Tom Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furbush came on to pitch the eighth inning and gave up a single and a ground-rule double. With Yoervis Medina and Fernando Rodney unavailable because of a heavy workload, Danny Farquhar was brought in. He immediately gave up a two-run single to pinch-hitter Marc Krauss to make it 8-6. Farquhar was able to stop the bleeding, retiring the next three batters.
In the ninth, Jose Altuve smoked a one-out double to left and scored on Jason Castro's single up the middle to make it 8-7. But Farquhar ended the game and picked up his first save of the season, striking out Matt Dominguez.
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