Houston's bats come alive

Astros overpower Mariners in opener to extend division lead

Jake Meyers drove in four runs including a three-run homer against the Mariners on Monday night. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

After a disappointing end to their recent road trip by getting handed a walk-off loss to the Padres to drop the series in San Diego, the Astros returned home with a big series against the second-place Mariners on deck. They took care of business in Monday's opener, getting plenty of offense to power past Seattle.

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 2

Astros' Record: 80-57, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (11-4)

Losing Pitcher: Yusei Kikuchi (7-8)

Houston knocks out Kikuchi early

After a scoreless first inning, the Astros took advantage of Yusei Kikuchi's inability to find the strike zone in the bottom of the second. They worked three straight walks to begin the inning with the bases load and no outs, setting up a two-run play where an error cost Seattle some outs and some runs, with two coming across on a groundball hit by Aledmys Diaz that could've been a double play.

Jake Meyers capitalized further in the next at-bat, drilling a 400-foot homer to extend the lead to 5-0. They weren't done there, as later in the inning, Yordan Alvarez made it 6-0 with an RBI double, ending Kikuchi's day at 1.2 innings.

Plenty of run support for McCullers Jr.

After that six-run second inning, Lance McCullers Jr. would have his worst inning of the night, allowing two runs on two hits and a walk, including a two-RBI double to Abraham Toro, which at the time made it a four-run game at 6-2. He rebounded nicely from the damage, though, retiring seven in a row to keep them to two runs through five frames. He returned for the sixth and erased a leadoff single and a walk to toss another scoreless inning. His final line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

Those six innings of work had him squarely in line for the win, as Houston would tack on two runs in the fifth on another RBI by Meyers and one scoring on an error. They didn't stop there, getting another multi-run inning in the bottom of the sixth by scoring three; two on a two-RBI double by Kyle Tucker and later an RBI single by Alex Bregman, pushing the lead to 11-2.

Astros take the opener in dominant fashion

Houston's first reliever was Brandon Bielak in the top of the seventh. He erased a leadoff walk, getting a strikeout and double play to face the minimum in the inning. He kept going in the top of the eighth and had an exact repeat of the inning prior, walking the first batter, getting a strikeout, then an inning-ending double play, this one started by Marwin Gonzalez, who entered defensively in the inning at third to rest Alex Bregman.

Bielak stayed on the mound in the top of the ninth, still with a nine-run lead, to try and complete the piggyback. He finished off the win for Houston, pushing the Mariners back to 5.5 games back, as are the A's, and gives the Astros the chance to get a series win on Tuesday.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game series will get started at 7:10 PM Central on Tuesday. Jake Odorizzi (6-7, 4.32 ERA) will try to move back to even on the year for Houston, while Logan Gilbert (5-5, 5.14 ERA) is expected to start for Seattle.

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1. Davis Mills had an up-and-down day under center Friday. One play saw Mills drop back and try to get rid of the ball as Jonathan Greenard was rushing him only to have Greenard leap up and intercept Mills for what would have been an interception returned for a score.

2. A few plays later Davis Mills showcased his short memory. Mills surveyed the field, looked off the safety, and pitched a strike to Brevin Jordan over the middle, wide open, for a touchdown.

3. Davis Mills doesn’t stack bad plays. It is rare to see multiple bad plays happen in a row and Mills be the cause, or a cause, of the play not working. When he misses something, he usually makes up for it the next play.

4. It was a makeshift offensive line on Friday. Max Scharping played a lot at left guard. Charlie Heck saw some snaps at left tackle while Laremy Tunsil took a breather. Veteran lineman Cedric Ogbuehi played some at right tackle. There was plenty of work emphasized on the rushing attack Friday. The offensive line was fine, nothing special. I would say slight edge to the defense overall.

5. Rookie Kenyon Green didn’t practice. Right tackle Tytus Howard didn’t practice either. Pro Football Network is reporting Tytus Howard is out with a positive Covid test. Kenyon Green was banged up last practice, but Lovie Smith expects both back in the coming days.

6.The offensive line had its hands full with the defensive line today. Jonathan Greenard made the above-mentioned play of the practice with an interception. It felt constantly like there was some level of success from the defensive line. Not to say they dominated, but I would think the defense is happy with their day.

7. Maliek Collins has been a nice player in camp. He looks a bit quicker than last year. Collins downplayed how many “close” plays he had last year citing that everyone knows the saying “close but no cigar.” I asked him if he expected a lot of cigars this year. He chuckled and said yes. Teammate Roy Lopez gushed about what he believes Collins can be for this team and called his teammate one of the best defensive tackles in the league.

8. I almost wonder if quiet Derek Stingley days are good days. Stingley wasn’t involved in a lot of plays, but I know Davis Mills saw him on Friday. Mills dropped back on one play and made a read to his left seeing Chris Moore. Stingley darted from coverage towards Moore causing Mills to move off Moore and head to Nico Collins for a score. Yes, the defense allowed a touchdown, but Stingley did his job.

9. Rookie safety Jalen Pitre is a “starting” safety for the team according to Lovie Smith. Pitre had an interception, depending on who you ask, in practice. It is clear the Texans trust him and have put a lot on his plate. I would expect to see a lot of the rookie safety, good or bad, this season.



10. Lovie Smith praised the team’s depth at linebacker earlier in camp. I scoffed a little at the notion, but there seems to be a new linebacker making a play each day. Christian Kirksey had a nice stop in the run game today. Kevin Pierre-Louis, who played very little last year, has flashed. There’s some depth here, despite my skepticism.

11. Ka'imi Fairbairn doesn’t have a challenger in camp this year. I believed this offseason should have seen at the very least someone to challenge the kicker heading into his seventh year in the league. He’s been solid in camp so far, but there have been some misses. It is tough to judge distance, but the team clearly has faith in him with no challenger in sight.

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