France’s homer backs rookie Brash, Mariners beat Astros 7-2

SEATTLE (AP) — Ty France hit a three-run homer, rookie starter Matt Brash took an odd no-hitter into the sixth inning, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Houston Astros 7-2 on Sunday for a rare series victory against their AL West rivals.

The Mariners won their third game in four days with the help of four double plays in the first four innings as they built a 6-0 lead behind Brash (1-1), who got his first career win.

The 23-year-old right-hander walked batters to lead off each of the first three innings and hit another. But the Mariners backed him with strong defense, including a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play in the first, and 6-4-3 turns started by J.P. Crawford in each of the next three.

“It’s one of the best feelings ever because you get a free out, especially in those situations with leadoff walks,” Brash said.

Asked if that was the most double plays he’d started in a game, Crawford said: “I can’t even tell you, boss. I don’t know. But I feel like today was a lot.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais and Astros manager Dusty Baker called Brash “effectively wild” due to his velocity in the 100 mph range and his movement.

“He had more balls than strikes for a while,” Baker said. “The double-play pitches that he was throwing, he got eight outs in four pitches.”

Brash, a fourth-round pick acquired via trade from the San Diego Padres, began the sixth with a strikeout of Chas McCormick. But Jose Altuve broke up the no-hit bid with a line-drive single and Michael Brantley followed with a two-run homer, his first of the season.

Brash’s day ended when he followed with a walk of Alex Bregman, his sixth of the game. He finished with five strikeouts and two hits in 5 1/3 innings.

“That’s a heck of a way to get your first win,” Servais said. “Certainly we saw what Matt Brash brings to the table for us. Just an electric arm.”

The Mariners broke open a 1-0 game in the fourth inning against José Urquidy (1-1) with a pair of lucky one-out bounces. Luis Torrens sent a single off Bregman’s glove at third base and Jarred Kelenic hit one off Yuli Gurriel’s glove at first. It rolled right to second baseman Altuve, whose throw was late.

After a popup, rookie Julio Rodríguez picked up his first career RBI with a single, scoring Torrens. Adam Frazier followed with an RBI single.

France then hit a three-run homer, just a few hours after Baker predicted the Mariners’ first baseman was about to begin a hot streak. France’s second homer of the season made it 6-0.

“Those balls were hit hard and then sort of the sky fell out,” Baker said.

That ended the outing for Urquidy, who pitched four innings, allowing eight hits with two strikeouts and a walk.

Abraham Toro and Kelenic hit back-to-back doubles in the seventh for a 7-2 lead. Kelenic had two doubles.

Paul Sewell, Drew Steckenrider, Andrés Muñoz and Diego Castillo combined for 3 2/3 innings of two-hit relief. Seattle pitchers finished with 10 strikeouts, fanning all nine Houston batters at least once.

“We’ve got guys that can strike people out,” Servais said. “We did that last year. Our bullpen struck them out last year. We didn’t have so much of that in our starting rotation and that’s changed with … Robbie Ray, hopefully Logan Gilbert for a whole year and what Matt Brash brings. Those guys can wipe you out. Their stuff is so good.”

NOT SO FAST

Baker said he didn’t notice much difference when Justin Verlander and Martín Maldonado used PitchCom technology to communicate during Saturday’s game, though he had one complaint. The device, which transmits a signal from a wristband on the catcher’s arm to an earpiece worn by the pitcher, doesn’t give him enough time to evaluate baserunners.

“One thing that I did notice is that when I’m calling for a throw over, step off and stuff like that, that they get the sign so quickly that I kind of wish it wasn’t as quick because then that gives me time to see if a guy has a different lead or has shortened up his lead or, you know, is giving away signs that they’re going steal,” Baker said. “So that’s probably still a work in progress there.”

NEW PITCHER

Seattle assigned RHP Riley O’Brien to Triple-A Tacoma after acquiring him in a trade with Cincinnati on Saturday, Servais said. O’Brien was acquired from Cincinnati for a player to be named or cash. He made one start for the Reds last season.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: 1B Taylor Jones’ back injury is not getting better as quickly as expected, Baker said. Jones went back to Houston early for re-evaluation by team doctors. He went on the 10-day injured list on April 7. … DH Yordan Alvarez (non-COVID illness) was scheduled to run Sunday for the first time since falling ill mid-week.

Mariners: Servais had no update on RF Mitch Haniger, who went on the COVID-19 IL on Saturday. Haniger will be out at least five days.

UP NEXT

Astros: RHP Luis Garcia (0-0, 0.00) makes his second start as Houston plays its home opener Monday against the Los Angeles Angels.

Mariners: Ray (1-1, 4.73) makes his third start on Tuesday against Texas. It will be the AL Cy Young Award winner’s home debut.

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