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Lance McCullers, Josh Reddick power Houston Astros past Seattle Mariners

By Gene Warnick, The Sports Xchange
Houston Astros' Carlos Correa (1) celebrates with Josh Reddick (22) after scoring. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/75a732b95f0997d09982d6430fcf2091/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Houston Astros' Carlos Correa (1) celebrates with Josh Reddick (22) after scoring. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

SEATTLE -- Lance McCullers Jr. is back.

And more importantly, his back is pain-free.

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The right-hander, who was activated from the 10-day disabled list earlier in the day, pitched five-plus innings, allowing one run on four hits with no walks and eight strikeouts, as the Houston Astros defeated the Seattle Mariners 5-2 Friday night at Safeco Field.

McCullers (7-1) said he was more concerned his arm was almost too lively after getting a two-week break between starts.

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"Coming out of the 'pen, I didn't know if I was going to throw strikes tonight," McCullers said. "My arm felt extremely good, definitely fresher than I'm used to."

McCullers opened with four perfect innings before Nelson Cruz led off the fifth with a single.

"I thought he was great," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of McCullers. "It was nice to see him come out pretty hot. He was mid-90s from the very beginning and had a really good breaking ball.

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"They put a couple good swings on him mid-game, but I don't think we could have asked for much more coming back from a long break."

Josh Reddick hit a two-run homer in the third inning and Brian McCann added a three-run double in the seventh for the American League West-leading Astros, who won for the fifth time in six games and snapped the second-place Mariners' season-high winning streak at six.

"They have one of the best lineups, top to bottom, we've faced all year," McCullers said. "For us to be able to bounce back (from a 13-3 loss Friday) and get a win, it's good for us."

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The Mariners made things interesting in the ninth against Houston closer Ken Giles, loading the bases with two outs to bring up pinch hitter Mike Zunino, whose 29 RBIs this month lead the major leagues.

Giles walked Zunino on a 3-2 pitch to bring in a run, but struck out Carlos Ruiz on a called third strike to end it. Ruiz lined a 1-1 pitch down the left-field line that just hooked foul, otherwise the Mariners might have tied it.

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"It's tough to win games," Hinch said. "I mean, we played pretty well and they battled at the end."

Leading 2-1, the Astros loaded the bases in the seventh with singles by George Springer and Carlos Correa and a catcher's interference call on Ruiz.

With two outs, McCann hit a ball down the right-field line. Mitch Haniger made a diving attempt and had the ball in his mitt, but it popped out when Haniger hit the turf. The three-run double gave Houston a 5-1 advantage.

"Some nights it's literally a game of inches," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "Haniger gave everything he had to get to the ball and Chooch (Ruiz) missed a big hit late by about a foot."

The Mariners' first hit came in an unlikely fashion, on an infield single by Cruz.

Cruz topped the ball down the third-base line. Alex Bregman charged and made a bare-handed play, but his throw wasn't in time.

Kyle Seager followed with a one-hop double off the center-field wall, putting Mariners at second and third.

McCullers struck out Haniger and then got Jarrod Dyson to ground directly to second baseman Jose Altuve. Cruz was caught midway between third base and the plate, caught in a rundown by McCann for the second out as Seager advanced to third. Taylor Motter struck out to end the inning.

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The Mariners threatened again in the sixth as Ruiz led off with a double and Jean Segura hit a sharp grounder up the middle that shortstop Correa was able to knock down but had no chance to make a play at first.

That spelled the end for McCullers.

"A.J. didn't tell me a pitch count, but I knew I was close (to being done) after the fifth," McCullers said. "I just tried to get ahead and stay ahead."

Reliever Will Harris came in with runners at first and third. He struck out Ben Gamel before Robinson Cano grounded a run-scoring single to right field, with Segura taking third. But Harris got Cruz to ground into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play, preserving Houston's 2-1 lead.

Seattle starter Sam Gaviglio (3-2) escaped two-on jams in each of the first two innings, but not in the third.

George Springer led off the inning with a single, then was awarded another base when second-base umpire Angel Hernandez called Gaviglio for a balk on a pick-off attempt.

That seemed to unnerve the rookie right-hander as Reddick crushed a 1-0 pitch over the center-field wall to open the scoring.

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Gaviglio went six innings, allowing the two runs on six hits. He walked three and struck out three.

"Gaviglio did a real good job, about all we could ask for," Servais said.

NOTES: Saturday was "Turn Back the Clock Night" at Safeco Field, with the Mariners wearing caps and jerseys from their inaugural 1977 season and the Astros decked out in their orange and yellow rainbow tops and orange caps. ... Astros 1B Marwin Gonzalez was a late scratch for Saturday's game, suffering from what the team called tightness in his right oblique. Yuli Gurriel replaced Gonzalez at first and in the No. 7 spot in the batting order. ... Seattle LF Ben Gamel saw his 15-game hitting streak snapped as he went 0-for-4. ... Astros RHP Brad Peacock was scheduled to start Sunday's series finale, but instead headed back late Friday night to West Palm Beach, Fla., as his wife, Stephanie, was about to give birth to their first child. Peacock made it back home in time and tweeted Saturday that Colton Joseph Peacock was born at 1:46 p.m., weighed 8 pounds, 5 ounces and measured 21 inches. "Mom & baby are great!" Peacock tweeted. Peacock was placed on the paternity list and RHP Jordan Jankowski was recalled from Triple-A Fresno. RHP Francis Martes (2-0, 5.02 ERA) will start for Peacock on Sunday against Seattle LHP Ariel Miranda (6-3, 4.04). ... The Astros made another roster move, sending RHP Joe Musgrove to Fresno. Musgrove allowed nine runs in 3 1/3 innings Friday night in a 13-3 loss to the Mariners.

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