Tuesday, July 01, 2014
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Mariners hit four homers in victory

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[July 01, 2014]  HOUSTON -- In what was the first start of the season for heralded prospect Taijuan Walker, the Seattle Mariners made sure to provide the run support necessary to help Walker overcome any early missteps.

The Mariners finished a grand slam shy of the home run cycle, belting four homers in a 10-4 victory over the Houston Astros on Monday night at Minute Maid Park.

Second baseman Robinson Cano capped the homer binge with an opposite-field, three-run shot to left off Astros right-hander Josh Zeid in the seventh inning, turning a two-run lead into a cushy 8-3 margin.

"Every time you do something good as a team, either you or your teammates or the whole team, you're always going to feel good about it," Cano said. "This game is not about one guy. This game is about the whole team and you want to continue because you're not going to get the same guy every night getting hits."

The Mariners (45-38) bashed two two-run home runs and a solo shot off Astros right-hander Collin McHugh (4-7), who entered the game having allowed five homers over 72 1/3 innings this season and who vexed the Mariners in Seattle during his season debut on April 22.

Cano (2-for-5) and Mariners center fielder James Jones were the only members of the Seattle lineup to record multi-hit games. Jones went 4-for-5 with three stolen bases, becoming just the second player in franchise history with a four-hit, three-steal game. Ichiro Suzuki accomplished the feat on July 20, 2004, against the Boston Red Sox.

Walker (1-0) won his season debut by tossing six quality innings, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out six.

After missing the first three months of the season with shoulder woes, Walker scuffled out of the gate. He surrendered two home runs in his first trip through the Astros lineup, including a 445-foot blast by right fielder George Springer that gave Houston (36-48) a 2-0 lead in the first.

That titanic two-run home run by Springer was the longest ever hit to left field by an Astro in the 15-year history of Minute Maid Park.

"I actually did not even see where it went," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "It was hit pretty well. I didn't see where the ball went or landed. Let's just say he got into that one pretty good."

Shortstop Marwin Gonzalez didn't strike as impressive a blast, but his solo shot off the right-field foul pole lifted the Astros to a 3-2 lead in the second after the Mariners pulled even a half-inning earlier. At that point Walker settled down, allowing just four baserunners the rest of the way.

"It's good to come out here," Walker said. "Our team is playing really well, too. They put up runs for me, so when we had the 5-3 lead I could breathe a little bit and just go out there and make them put the ball in play and not try to strike every one out. I got comfortable."

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Like Walker, McHugh struggled keeping the ball in the park. Mariners catcher Mike Zunino and right fielder Michael Saunders each produced two-run home runs, with Zunino tying the game with his homer to left in the second inning. Saunders reached the upper deck in right with his blast in the fourth and, two batters later, Mariners shortstop Brad Miller added a solo shot to right for a 5-3 Seattle lead.

McHugh finished with eight strikeouts over six innings but also walked four and allowed five hits and five runs before departing with a deficit.

"The fastball command was rough tonight," McHugh said. "I looked up at one point tonight and I had thrown 27 balls and 26 strikes. If you have seen me throw for a while, you know that is not the way I like to attack, it's not the way I like to pitch. It was a struggle tonight, that's for sure. It puts a lot on your other pitches to be kind of perfect when you can't locate a fastball on the arm side a lot."

NOTES: Mariners 3B Kyle Seager was named AL Player of the Week after batting .583/.583/.958 with three doubles, two home runs, five runs scored and eight RBIs over six games. Seager, who was named AL Co-Player of the Week for April 21-27, had four consecutive multi-hit games and was batting .421 with 16 RBIs over his last 15 games before Monday. ... Mariners RHP Taijuan Walker became the third pitcher since 2004 to face a single team three times in his first four career starts, joining Padres LHP Wade LeBlanc (2008 vs. the Dodgers) and Padres RHP Justin Germano (2004 vs. the Rockies). ... Entering Monday, Astros 2B Jose Altuve led the AL in hits (116), stolen bases (36) and batting average (.347), and stands to become just the second player since 1957 to lead the AL in all three categories at the All-Star Game break (Mariners RF Ichiro Suzuki, 2003). He went 0-for-3 but stole a base in the opener against Seattle.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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