HOUSTON — Mariners left-hander Joe Saunders would have preferred to keep going after throwing 86 pitches in Saturday night’s 3-1 win over the Astros.
But considering the struggles of both he and his team, he will take it.
“We still won,” Saunders said. “That’s all that matters.”
Saunders pitched into the sixth inning for his first win in nearly a month, and Seattle beat Houston.
Kendrys Morales, Nick Franklin and Dustin Ackley each drove in a run in the first inning for the Mariners, who had lost six in a row before the series against the major league-worst Astros.
Seattle will have Hisashi Iwakuma on the mound when it goes for a series sweep Sunday.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge saw plenty of room for improvement after the game.
“You’d like to keep going. I mean, we had opportunities,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We played sloppy baseball in the second half of a baseball game.
“We had opportunities offensively and misplayed some balls defensively, (but) in the end we won the ball game.”
Saunders (11-13) allowed an unearned run and six hits over 5 1-3 innings in his first win since Aug. 4 at Baltimore. The left-hander was 0-3 with an 8.31 ERA in his previous four starts.
“I still think there’s a full moon when I pitch or something, because there is some crazy (stuff) going on in my games,” Saunders said. “So it was nice to get a ‘W’ for sure.”
Matt Dominguez and Brandon Barnes had two hits apiece for Houston (44-91), which is headed for its third straight 100-loss season.
Dallas Keuchel (5-8) got off to a rough start, and the Astros never recovered.
Seattle jumped on Keuchel for three runs in the first inning. Morales had a run-scoring infield hit before Keuchel issued consecutive walks to Raul Ibanez and Franklin to force home another run. Ackley then made it 3-0 on a groundout that brought home Morales.
Kyle Seager also had two hits for the Mariners.
Keuchel had a nice outing after the rocky first, striking out eight in seven innings. He allowed four hits and walked two, at one point retiring 12 consecutive batters.
“He threw well,” Mariners shortstop Brad Miller said of Keuchel. “He had a good stretch. I know there (on) my second at-bat he was starting to get into a rhythm, so obviously we’re glad we jumped out early on him.”
Saunders left the game with two on and one out, with Wedge preferring to go with Carter Capps for the right-on-right matchup with Jake Elmore.
“I wasn’t happy about coming out of the game,” Saunders said. “I’m never happy about coming out of a game. I thought I had a lot left in the tank, but he’s the manager for a reason and he makes those decisions.”
After Saunders left the game, Capps and Yoervis Medina each pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings before Danny Farquhar finished for his 11th save.
“Saunders was a little erratic but controlled damage,” Wedge said. “The bullpen did a nice job.”
Houston had a chance to get back in the game in the second. Dominguez led off with a single and Chris Carter then walked before Barnes grounded into a double play.
The Astros loaded the bases with two walks, but rookie Cody Clark bounced into a forceout to end the threat, with shortstop Brad Miller making a key stop.
The Astros scored in the fourth when Barnes singled with one out and scored on an error by Franklin at second.
Houston went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
“We just can’t seem to be able to get the big hit,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “We’ve had plenty of opportunities and have had men in scoring position, but it just seems like the big hit is avoiding us at this point.”
NOTES: Mariners SS Brad Miller has reached safely in 12 consecutive games. … Astros INF Jake Elmore recorded his first major league steal in the second inning. … The Mariners lead the season series 10-5, having taken eight of the past nine games. … Porter said after the game that the Astros have recalled RHP Jorge De Leon and OF Trevor Crowe from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Both will be active Sunday.