SEATTLE – Marco Gonzales’ first inning on Sunday lasted three minutes and seven pitches.
The 27-year-old Mariners left-hander induced a George Springer groundout and a Jose Altuve flyout, then dispatched third baseman Alex Bregman on four pitches. In the opening half-inning of an eventual 3-2 Houston Astros victory, Gonzales remained on the mound for roughly the time it takes to defrost a chicken breast in the microwave.
For the first five innings on Sunday, the Astros were cooked.
So much so, in fact, that Gonzales retired eight straight Astros at one point. He allowed just one hit and two walks in the first five frames, while striking out a pair. An Astros lineup that piled up 13 runs and 22 hits in the first two games of the series was effectively befuddled.
Then the sixth inning hit, and so did Houston. Gonzalez surrendered singles to Tony Kemp, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley, recording just one out and allowing a pair of runs. He was replaced by right-handed reliever Brandon Brennan, who continued a sizzling start to the 2019 season by striking out Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel to strand runners on the corners.
But Brennan’s 11 1/3-inning season-opening scoreless streak was snapped on the first pitch of the seventh inning, when Houston designated hitter Aledmys Diaz lifted a liner over the left field wall to give the Astros a 3-2 lead.
In all, Gonzales lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and two earned runs while striking out three and walking two. After Brennan left the game, Seattle relievers Cory Gearrin and Anthony Swarzak each delivered a scoreless inning.
Gonzales’ counterpart, hard-throwing Houston right-hander Gerrit Cole, also cruised.
But not at first.
The Mariners didn’t wait to extend their major league-record season-opening home run streak, as Mitch Haniger skied a 1-2 pitch over the left field wall to lead off the game. Haniger went back to work in the third inning, fisting an inside fastball down the left-field line for a two-out double. Left fielder Domingo Santana immediately drove him in, sending another double to a nearly identical spot.
The suddenly-inept Seattle offense was otherwise held at bay, however. Cole allowed just four hits and two earned runs in six innings, striking out 11. Astros relievers delivered three more scoreless innings and K’d four more. In fact, second baseman Dee Gordon was the only Mariner position player that didn’t strike out on Sunday.
Following Santana’s RBI double, the final 19 Mariners were retired in order.
And a team that scored at least five runs in 15 of its first 16 games was swept for the first time this season.
The Mariners placed starting LHP Wade LeBlanc on the 10-day injured list with a Grade 2 right oblique strain. LeBlanc is expected to be out four to six weeks. Seattle recalled RHP Erik Swanson from Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday. Swanson is expected to take LeBlanc’s upcoming spot in the rotation on Wednesday against Cleveland. … The Mariners traded C David Freitas to the Milwaukee Brewers for minor league RHP Sal Biasi. … LHP Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 4.15) is looking for his first major league decision in his fifth start as Seattle starts a three-game home series against Cleveland on Monday.
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