McCullers Strikes Out 11 as Astros Shut Down Mariners 4-1
SEATTLE (AP) — Lance McCullers Jr. saw manager A.J. Hinch walking toward him in the Houston dugout during the top of the seventh inning. He thought Hinch might tell the young right-hander his night was done.
"He just walked right past me. I was like, 'Hell yeah,'" McCullers said. "I really wanted to go back out there for the seventh, and I'm glad I finished it the way that I did."
McCullers matched his career high with 11 strikeouts over seven innings of one-hit ball, Brian McCann hit a tiebreaking two-run home run and the Astros beat the Seattle Mariners 4-1 on Tuesday night.
McCullers was outstanding in a bounce-back effort after allowing a career-high eight earned runs in his last start against Minnesota. His only mistake was an 0-2 curveball that Robinson Cano hit for a solo homer in the first inning. Otherwise, the Mariners were left guessing at McCullers' mix of breaking pitches and a good fastball. McCullers also had 11 strikeouts in a 2015 game against Baltimore.
"Filthy. It was similar to his first half last year. He had some dominant starts last year early," McCann said.
McCullers (2-1) retired 12 straight following Cano's homer before walking Daniel Vogelbach with two outs in the fifth inning. That was his only blip. McCullers retired the final seven he faced, including strikeouts of Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager to end the seventh. He left after throwing 102 pitches.
"He spun the ball pretty good. He has one of the best curveballs in the game," Cano said. "He's confident in what he's got and when he throws it he puts it where he wants. You have to give credit to the guy, he knows how to pitch."
Will Harris pitched the eighth and Chris Devenski worked the ninth for his second save.
McCann's home run in the sixth snapped a 1-1 tie and was his first of the season. Reliever Dan Altavilla (1-2) struggled to get into a rhythm taking over in the sixth, walking Evan Gattis to start the inning then leaving a 97 mph fastball in the middle of the plate for McCann.
Seattle starter Ariel Miranda was called up from Triple-A Tacoma to make the start and pitched well holding the Astros to one run in five innings, but skirted trouble throughout his first outing of the season.
The only run Miranda allowed was due to defensive mistakes and likely would not have scored if first baseman Vogelbach threw home after fielding Josh Reddick's ground ball instead of attempting to start a double play. Houston left the bases loaded twice against Miranda, the most egregious coming in the second inning when Jake Marisnick struck out looking and George Springer went down swinging to end the threat. Miranda ended his night getting Reddick to fly out to center field with the bases loaded to end the fifth inning.
Cano moved into second place on the career home run list for players that primarily played second base. Cano's 302nd home run passed Rogers Hornsby. Cano trails only Jeff Kent, who had 377 career homers.
"You always dream that you'll come up and be able to do something special in the game. It would have been great if we ended up winning," he said.
Jose Altuve played in the 1,000th game of his career and went 1 for 5. He has the second-most hits for a foreign-born player in their first 1,000 games, trailing only Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki. Altuve has 1,272 hits. Suzuki had 1,414 in his first 1,000 games.
Astros: The Astros are expected to activate reliever Tony Sipp (oblique strain) from the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday. The Astros optioned RHP James Hoyt to Triple A-Fresno after the game. Sipp has been out since April 8.
Mariners: OF Ben Gamel (oblique) is expected to rejoin the Mariners in the next couple of days — likely before the homestand with Houston ends — after being on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma. ... C Mike Zunino (oblique) was expected to be the designated hitter for Class A Modesto on Tuesday and will play at least one more game in the minors before the Mariners consider bringing him of the disabled list.
Astros: Gerrit Cole (1-0) tries to replicate his last start where he struck out a career-high 14 in seven innings. Cole has recorded at least 11 strikeouts in each of his three starts.
Mariners: Mike Leake (2-0) looks to remain perfect on the season after getting a no decision in his last start despite allowing three runs in six innings against Oakland.