Mariners Down Astros in Home Opener - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Mariners Down Astros in Home Opener

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by SeattleMariners.com

SEATTLE -- Pitching, defense, timely hitting and good execution are a pretty good formula in any game, and the Mariners got a healthy dose of all four in Monday night's 3-0 victory over the Astros in their Safeco Field opener.

The Mariners kicked off their home schedule with a picture-perfect opening ceremony -- showing off their impressive new video board and a fireworks display over the left-field bleachers -- and then they shut down their new American League West foes from Houston as Joe Saunders threw 6 1/3 sharp innings to pick up his first Seattle win.

The Mariners helped Saunders out with some good glovework, none better than a fully extended diving catch in the third inning by center fielder Franklin Gutierrez to rob Ronny Cedeno of extra bases in the right-center gap.

Though they totaled just five hits, the Mariners made the most of them. Designated hitter Kendrys Morales drove in the Mariners' first two runs with a single in the first and a double in the third, continuing his early-season surge. Morales was 2-for-3 with a walk, making him 5-for-7 over his past two games to raise his average to .321.

And a team that beefed up its offense by adding Morales and Michael Morse during the offseason proved capable of executing good baseball as well, with Gutierrez dropping down a beautiful squeeze bunt to bring home a run in the fifth.

The win evened the Mariners record at 4-4, while the Astros fell to 1-6 with their sixth straight setback.

Astros right-hander Philip Humber, who threw a perfect game while with the White Sox in his last start in Safeco Field, saw that dream die quickly this time as Michael Saunders singled to left on his second pitch of the game. Humber went six innings with five hits and three runs as he fell to 0-2 with a 3.09 ERA.

This one went Seattle's way from the start. After his leadoff single, Saunders stole second and scored on a one-out base hit by Morales. That combo clicked again in the third when Saunders singled, went to second on a wild pitch and scampered home on Morales' double to left.

Joe Saunders, who struggled in his Mariners debut in Oakland on Wednesday, has pitched well at Safeco, but always with a visiting club. The long-time Angels starter was 6-0 with a 2.13 ERA in nine starts at the park, and he did nothing to diminish that.

The veteran southpaw scattered six hits and a walk over his 6 1/3 innings while striking out five in a 91-pitch outing. He's now 1-1 with a 3.48 ERA after signing a one-year, $7 million deal as a free agent.

The Mariners had homered in their last six games on the opening road trip and came to a Safeco Field with shortened fences, particularly in left-center. But they used some small-ball execution to perfection instead.

Dustin Ackley, who had opened the season 1-for-21, singled sharply to right-center to lead off the fifth. Brendan Ryan followed with a bunt that catcher Jason Castro jumped on quickly, but threw a split-second too late to get Ackley, putting two runners on.

Ackley then moved to third on a fly ball to center by Michael Saunders, then scored standing as he sprinted home on Gutierrez's bunt for the 3-0 lead.

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