Zack Greinke pitched eight sharp innings, rookie Taylor Jones drove in the only run and the depleted Houston Astros ended a six-game losing streak, edging the Seattle Mariners 1-0 Saturday night.
Greinke allowed four hits and walked none. He struck out six, two of them on 67 mph curveballs.
"That's what aces do," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "Guys like him ... they stop the bleeding and we're about bled out."
Ryan Pressly pitched the ninth for his first save, though Baker said he considered letting Greinke go for the complete game after an eight-pitch eighth inning.
"It's fun to watch him," Pressly said. "I wish we had a better view instead of all the way out in the bullpen. It's fun to watch how he manipulates pitches, the way he moves them in and out. We were talking about it in the clubhouse: He's like an artist when he's out there."
Jones, from nearby Kent, Washington, hit an RBI single with two outs in the fourth. He has been pressed into service after five Astros – including starters Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yordan Álvarez – were moved to the injured list due to COVID-19 protocols on Wednesday.
Greinke, a six-time Gold Glover, made a brilliant defensive play in the fifth when he gathered in J.P. Crawford’s hard grounder, freezing two runners on base, and threw to third to start a double play. Greinke methodically surveyed each base before making the right decision to throw to third.
"There's a million things going through your mind in a short time," Greinke said.
Greinke finished the game with 2,705 career strikeouts. His teammate, Justin Verlander (18th at 3,013), and the Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer (22nd at 2,808) are the only active players ahead of him on the career list.
"Sometimes you pitch and you think it's really hard, and today it was fun," Greinke said. "Things were happening how I wanted them to. It was nice."
Seattle right-hander Chris Flexen (1-1) permitted 10 hits in six innings. He struck out three and walked none.
The Mariners had won three in a row.
"Greinke was on top of his game," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "We've seen him do that before. When he's living on the edges like that, and then back and forth with the slow curveball, he's tough to get out. He just didn't make a lot of mistakes tonight."
Astros: Baker said starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. might not make his scheduled start Wednesday at Colorado due to the lingering effects of his COVID-19 vaccine.
"He’s feeling better, but he’s still not 100%," Baker said. "If you’re not 100% and having trouble breathing, Colorado is not the place to get your breath back."
Baker had no new update on the five players who were put on the injured list due to COVID-19 protocols, but he doesn't expect them to play through the end of Houston’s five-game road trip to Seattle and Colorado.
Mariners: Servais called a Saturday informational meeting with Dr. Vin Gupta "fantastic" and "very impactful," and hopes Seattle will reach an 85% vaccination rate, the level at which MLB officials will relax some restrictions. Gupta, who became a go-to television personality during the pandemic, is Amazon’s principal scientist and a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Astros: LHP Blake Taylor will go on the 10-day injured list, Baker said. Taylor rolled his right ankle while trying to make a scoop toss at first base on a chopper from Taylor Trammell in Friday night’s 6-5 loss to the Mariners. It was his seventh appearance of the season, tied for the team lead. "Hopefully he’s a quick healer because we need him," Baker said. Taylor will be replaced on the roster by RHP Peter Solomon, a projected starting pitcher who likely will now make his major league debut out of the bullpen.
Astros: RHP Jake Odorizzi (0-1, 13.50 ERA) closes out the Seattle series after he gave up five runs over 3 1/3 innings in his season-opening appearance Tuesday at Detroit.
Mariners: LHP Nick Margevicius (0-1, 7.04 ERA) returns to the mound after giving up six runs (two earned) in a loss to Baltimore on Tuesday.