At this rate, Jose Altuve is going to find himself invited to participate in the home run derby — no matter what he claims.
“I’m not the power hitter we all see right now, but I’ll take it,” Altuve said. “If I keep hitting homers to help my team, I’ll be happy.”
Altuve homered for the fifth straight game, Justin Verlander struck out eight of the first 10 batters he faced and finished with a season-high 11, and the Houston Astros won their eighth straight beating the Seattle Mariners 3-1 on Saturday night.
Altuve homered for the sixth time in the past five games with a solo shot off Seattle starter Felix Hernandez (1-1) in the fifth inning. Altuve is the first Astros hitter to homer in five straight games since Morgan Ensberg set a franchise record with six straight in 2006.
“Pretty remarkable, just the contact he’s getting and the strength,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s carrying us in a lot of ways. Big home runs. In close games, big at-bats like that matter and he continues to impress.”
Robinson Chirinos also homered as Houston handed Seattle consecutive losses for the first time this season.
“I made two mistakes, two homers. You can’t make a mistake against the Astros. Facing Verlander you can’t make any mistakes,” Hernandez said.
While the homers were important, Verlander (2-0) was the reason why the Astros kept rolling.
Verlander was overpowering early and didn’t allow a baserunner until Mitch Haniger’s solo home run with one out in the fourth inning. Haniger’s homer extended Seattle’s MLB-record streak of 17 games with a home run to begin a season. Seattle has 38 homers in 17 games, but was held to a season low in runs. It was just the third time Seattle was held to less than six runs.
Daniel Vogelbach singled leading off the fifth, but that was it for baserunners allowed. Verlander walked none and only a rising pitch count equated an end to his evening. Still, he had plenty left in the later innings, hitting 98 mph with his fastball in the sixth inning and his pitch count nearing the century mark.
Verlander had allowed seven earned runs total in his previous two starts, but made a few mechanical adjustments after looking at old video and got the results he wanted.
“I was messing around a lot in the locker room yesterday with some old mechanics and pretty much from the jump today when I started throwing I knew it was the right thing,” Verlander said. “It felt good and it carried over into the game.
Verlander did get one key defensive play in the fifth inning when Jake Marisnick made a running catch in deep right-center field on a drive from Ryon Healy. Off the bat, Verlander thought the ball was gone, but Marisnick chased it down to end the inning and save Houston a run.
Marisnick made another fine running catch on Domingo Santana’s drive to center leading off the seventh. Seattle got a bad break later in the inning when Tim Beckham’s drive bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double when Vogelbach likely would have scored from first if it stayed in play. Omar Narvaez grounded out to end the threat.
Roberto Osuna pitched the ninth for his sixth save.
Hernandez had a solid outing after being pulled early from his last start due to illness. Hernandez pitched six innings, allowing six hits and striking out five. Most of his trouble came in the third inning when Chirinos’ homer was followed by a hit batter, an infield single by Altuve and Michael Brantley’s two-out RBI single.
The Astros were complimentary of Hernandez and his mix of fastball, curveball and changeup that kept them off balance.
“We’ll take that outing all day long — I know he will, too — the rest of the season,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “If we could put that in a bottle for the rest of the season, he’d be happy with it and so would we.