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SEATTLE — The first run Seattle Mariners reliever Brandon Brennan gave up this season turned out to be a game-winner.
Houston Astros designated hitter Aledmys Diaz turned on a first-pitch sinker in the seventh inning Sunday afternoon and his drive just cleared the fence in left, lifting the Astros to a 3-2 win over the Mariners at T-Mobile Park.
“He’s not getting to play a lot. He played almost every day last season, so the attitude has been great,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said of Diaz. “He’s willing to do anything. Guys are rooting for him in there.”
The Mariners (13-5) still have the most wins in baseball even after being swept in the three-game series against their American League West rivals.
Brennan, a Rule 5 Draft pickup by the Mariners during the offseason, pitched brilliantly in his first eight outings this season. Brennan (1-1, 0.73 ERA) had held opponents scoreless through his first 111⁄3 innings.
Sunday, he relieved Mariners ace Marco Gonzales with runners at the corners and one out in the sixth, and struck out Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel in back-to-back at-bats to preserve a 2-2 tie.
Gonzales (4-0, 3.16) cruised through the Astros’ lineup twice, allowing just one hit and one walk in the first five innings, before running into trouble in the sixth.
Tony Kemp hit a leadoff single, and Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman each added base hits to load the bases with one out. Michael Brantley then hit Houston’s fourth single of the inning, driving in a pair of runs to tie the game 2-2.
Gonzales, who had thrown just 73 pitches, was pulled following Brantley’s RBI single, and Brennan struck out the next two batters to retire the side. Gonzales left without a decision for the first time this season after picking up wins in each of his first four starts.
Seattle took an immediate lead in the first inning, when outfielder Mitch Haniger hit the third leadoff homer of his career into the opposing bullpen in left field. It was Haniger’s fifth home run of the season, and the 39th for Seattle. The Mariners have hit at least one homer in each of their first 18 games, extending their major-league record for consecutive games with a home run to start a season.
Haniger hit a leadoff double to left in the third, and Domingo Santana — who leads the majors with 23 RBI — knocked a double to nearly the same location to push Seattle’s lead to 2-0.
But Houston starter Gerrit Cole (1-2) otherwise controlled the Mariners’ usually potent offense, allowing the two earned runs on four hits and walking none in six innings of work.
Cole’s 11 strikeouts matched the effort from Astros ace Justin Verlander in a similar low-scoring win over the Mariners a day earlier.
The Mariners were retired in order by Houston’s bullpen in each of the final three innings, and struck out 15 times during the contest, including twice in the ninth inning.
“Our whole bullpen is really good,” Cole said. “They’re not afraid to pitch in leverage or clean up your mess. As starters, we just try to minimize their workload as best we can.”
Despite the Mariners going down in order in the ninth, there were some close calls for Astros closer Roberto Osuna. Haniger appeared to start the ninth inning with an infield single, but was ruled out on replay. Santana had fans on their feet with a long drive down the right-field line that went foul, and Daniel Vogelbach worked a full count before striking out looking to end the game.
“It’s a game of inches. I thought Domingo’s ball had a chance there in the ninth to sneak around the foul pole. Just didn’t happen,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “We just went up against really good pitching this weekend.”
The streaking Astros have won nine straight games.