M's Blast Keuchel, Sail 7-1

The Beard gets the bench
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
This was a game about who wanted it more. Whether the Houston Astros, preseason favorites to win the AL West going away, were somewhat embarrassed to be in second place and willing to rip apart the usurpers who came to their town with dreams of overtaking the presumed champs or whether it was the Seattle Mariners, who meant to prove they were in the same conversation with the Astros, even without All-Star Robby Cano for most, if not all of the season - which one came out on fire?

Seattle left no question. They slammed Dallas Keuchel for four runs in the first and blew out the Astros, 7-1, Tuesday night to move two games ahead in the West. They've now won four straight and 14 of their last 17.

Houston fell for their third straight game and have dropped seven of their last ten. Keuchel (3-8) is on pace to be a 20-game loser this season. His seven earned runs allowed ballooned his season ERA to 4.13.

Uh, about that free agent contract this winter, Dallas...

Mitch Haniger opened the scoring with a force out that plated Dee Gordon in the first. Kyle Seager then crushed a three-run shot into the front row of the Crawfords. Mike Zunino smashed a two-run homer off the railroad tracks in the second to up the margin to 6-0. Jean Segura added a similar solo shot in the fifth.

Lefty James Paxton had little trouble, scattering nine hits and a walk among 7-2/3rd frames. Two relievers chipped in the final four outs to seal it.

Marwin Gonzalez, fresh off a couple days out with injuries, was the only Astro who had a big day at the plate. The switch-hitting left fielder spanked a double and triple among three hits. His two-bagger in the second drove home Carlos Correa for the only Houston tally. Jose Altuve added two singles.

The short series finishes Wednesday night with a 7:10 pm Central contest. Former Astro Wade LeBlanc (1-0) will continue to test the conventional wisdom that the best way to beat the Champs is to keep sending out lefties against them. He's throwing for the Seamen against Lance McCullers (7-3) who beat Boston his last time out.

The Astros also completed the first 10 rounds of their June free agent draft. You'd think their biggest weakness is outfielders. Their first-round selection was Clemson outfielder Seth Beer. They also chose flychasers in the 4th, 9th and 10th rounds. Houston grabbed four pitchers too, one each in the 2nd, 5th, 6th and 8th rounds. Rounding out the Day 2 picks were a catcher and the infielder son of former big leaguer Geronimo Pena. The final 30 rounds will be held Wednesday.

- Bob Hulsey