SEATTLE — Michael Saunders’ legs carried the Mariners to victory.
The Seattle outfielder beat out an infield hit with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, driving in the two runs that lifted the Mariners to a 3-1 win over the Houston Astros on Thursday night.
“All I did was hit the ball soft and run,” Saunders said.
With the game tied 1-1, two outs and a full count, Saunders hit a chopper to first and narrowly out-raced pitcher Tony Sipp, who was covering the bag. The batters were running on the pitch, allowing two runs to score.
The play was reviewed, and on the slow motion replay it was clear Saunders’ final step came down just in front of the base before he slid his foot into the bag an instant before Sipp reached it.
“I kind of got out of stride with my right foot, and I knew the only chance I had — if I lifted my foot I wasn’t going to be safe,” Saunders said. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to reach the base or not, but it worked out.”
Houston starter Jarred Cosart (3-4) gave up three runs on five hits and four walks over 6? innings. He struck out six and largely kept Seattle’s offense bottled up until the seventh inning.
Dustin Ackley and Stefen Romero led off with singles and Cosart walked Nick Franklin to load the bases with no outs. Cosart struck out Mike Zunino before giving way to Sipp, who got pinch-hitter Cole Gillespie to pop up before coming up just short of beating Saunders and getting out of the inning.
“It’s one of those things that will eat at me for a while,” Sipp said. “You try to assess the situation, see what was what and it was that little half second that I got beat by.”
Romero started the play on second base, and once Saunders made contact he wasn’t going to stop until he reached home.
“I knew that was potentially the third out, so I just kept running,” Romero said. “Fortunately they called him safe, and I was already touching home by the time Sipp looked over.”
Saunders said he knew he was safe immediately, but not everyone in the Mariners’ dugout was as confident.
“Those plays are bang-bang, you just don’t know,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “And we haven’t had many of them go our way lately, so it made me a little nervous.”
Both teams scored in the opening inning. Jose Altuve homered on the game’s first pitch for the Astros, who have lost three in a row.
Seattle starter Roenis Elias pitched into the sixth inning, allowing three hits, with the only run coming on Altuve’s leadoff homer. Elias struck out six, walked four and pitched out of jams a couple times early — the first two batters reached in the second and third innings — before settling down.
Altuve took Elias’ opening pitch deep into the visitor’s bullpen in right field for his second home run. It was Altuve’s third career leadoff homer and first this season.
The Mariners scratched out a run in the bottom of the first. James Jones led off with a walk, advanced to third on Saunders’ single and scored on Robinson Cano’s sacrifice fly to center.
Dominic Leone (1-0) relieved Elias in the sixth and pitched 1? innings for his first major-league win in 16 appearances.
“I really didn’t think much of it until I came in and everyone kind of told me,” Leone said. “For me, this was another night where I went out and did my job and kept the guys in the game. It’s obviously nice to have that win in my stat column, but it’s even better for this team.”
Fernando Rodney pitched a perfect ninth for his 12th save.
Notes: Houston OF George Springer was held out of the lineup after injuring his hip while getting picked off in the ninth inning Wednesday. Astros manager Bo Porter said Springer could be back as soon as Friday. … Seattle OF Logan Morrison (strained right hamstring) will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on Friday, and LHP James Paxton (strained back muscle) will make a rehab start with Tacoma on Saturday. … The Mariners signed RHP Todd Coffey to a minor-league contract. … Seattle CF James Jones singled in the third inning to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. Jones has at least one hit in all 13 of his major league starts.