Wednesday, July 02, 2014
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Big sixth inning powers Mariners

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[July 02, 2014]  HOUSTON - Of course it was Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano whose at-bat turned the most decisive inning of the night on its ear, and of course it was Cano who delivered to turn a nail-biter into a cakewalk.

Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma rebounded from two rough starts by working six strong innings, and the Mariners turned a tense affair into a laugher with a their seven-run sixth inning in their 13-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.

Iwakuma (6-4) allowed five earned runs in each of his previous two starts, surrendering 17 hits over nine innings during that stretch. He reclaimed his reliable form against the Astros (36-49) by allowing one run on seven hits with seven strikeouts. Iwakuma did not issue a walk.

Leading 3-1 entering the sixth, the Mariners (46-38) strung together six consecutive run-scoring hits, all with two outs. Cano doubled to drive in two, chase Astros right-hander Jarred Cosart, and key the rout.

"Yeah, it was a big at-bat," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He continues to be a clutch hitter for us. He's driven in some big runs for us. That certainly opened up the floodgates."

Third baseman Kyle Seager, first baseman Logan Morrison (2-for-6) and catcher Mike Zunino followed Cano with consecutive RBI doubles off left-hander Darin Downs. Right fielder Michael Saunders (2-for-4) broke the doubles string with an RBI single and scored when left fielder Dustin Ackley (3-for-4) doubled in his second plate appearance in the inning.

One night after finishing 4-for-5 with three stolen bases, Mariners center fielder James Jones went 3-for-6 with two RBIs and three runs scored. Cano (2-for-4) and Seager (3-for-5) drove in three runs apiece for the Mariners, who stretched their road winning streak to five games.

"Everybody was getting pitches to drive and it just worked out that way," Jones said of the offensive surge. "It's definitely fun when that gets going. I'm just happy it kept going."

From the start, Cosart (8-6) found himself in a grind, allowing the first three batters he faced to reach base. Cano delivered an RBI single to center field to start the scoring. Seager added a run-scoring groundout.

Cosart surrendered another run in the second inning, with Jones driving home Ackley. Jones extended his streak of consecutive at-bats with a single to six as the Mariners recaptured their two-run lead at 3-1.

Cosart failed to retire the side in order in any inning, the final blow coming when Cano delivered his two-out double, scoring designated hitter Endy Chavez and Jones while pushing the Seattle lead to 5-1.

In 5 2/3 innings, Cosart allowed six runs on nine hits and four walks. He had strung together six consecutive starts with two or fewer walks.

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"Walks," Cosart said, identifying his primary issue. "Probably no one expects me to go five from the beginning, then I battled and found it a little bit. It all comes down to walks. That's how the runs scored."

The Astros got off to a promising start against Iwakuma in the first inning as second baseman Jose Altuve, center fielder Alex Presley and third baseman Matt Dominguez all delivered base hits. The Dominguez single brought home Altuve and sliced the Mariners' lead in half.

Altuve, Presley, second baseman Kike Hernandez and shortstop Marwin Gonzalez had two hits apiece for the Astros, who managed only four additional hits against Iwakuma following their robust beginning.

"Right now you give the Seattle Mariners a lot of credit," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "They are playing really good baseball right now. They are pitching well, they are swinging the bats unbelievable, and we are going to have to play better to beat them."

NOTES: Astros CF Dexter Fowler was placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to June 27) because of a right intercostal strain. Entering play Tuesday, Fowler ranked 10th in the American League with a .377 on-base percentage, and he was tied for ninth in the majors with 47 walks. ... After optioning SS Jonathan Villar to Triple-A Oklahoma City and designating RHP Jerome Williams for assignment late Monday night, the Astros recalled OF Domingo Santana, INF Kike Hernandez and LHP Kevin Chapman from Oklahoma City. ... Mariners RHP Tom Wilhelmsen earned his first save since July 28 on Monday night, doing so while matching his career high of three innings pitched.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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