- Associated Press - Saturday, May 7, 2016

HOUSTON (AP) - Seattle starter Taijuan Walker’s neck was stiff and he had trouble turning his head when he arrived at the ballpark.

He hoped it would loosen up and he’d be OK by the time he got on the mound against the Houston Astros on Friday night.

Instead he continued to struggle with the problem and was only able to last two innings in 6-3 loss. Carlos Correa homered and finished with three hits and two RBIs to lead the Astros to victory.

Walker allowed two hits and three runs - one earned - before leaving the game with neck spasms. He thinks he slept on it wrong and hopes it isn’t something that will linger.

“My neck was tight, I couldn’t really turn to finish the catcher, and as a result, I couldn’t really finish my pitches,” he said. “I was using all arms, so it was better not to push it and mess up my mechanics or anything.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais said the training staff worked all afternoon to try and make it better, but it simply didn’t work.

“It was very clear to me that he was not comfortable,” Servais said. “The ball wasn’t coming out. At this point in the season, where we’re at, he’s too valuable. We’re not taking a chance. His velocity was down, all his stuff was down.”

Houston manager A.J. Hinch knew right away that Walker wasn’t himself.

“His velocity wasn’t as high in the first inning as it had been in Seattle and he looked a little tentative,” Hinch said. “He looked uncomfortable but I didn’t really know what it was. He wasn’t getting down the hill. He wasn’t as energetic as he was (before).”

Correa’s homer came off Walker (2-2) with two outs in the first inning. It was his second home run in three games after not homering in the previous 24 games.

Evan Gattis reached on an error by shortstop Ketel Marte with no outs in the second. The Astros made it 3-0 when Marwin Gonzalez sent one into the seats in right field for the first multi-run homer of his career. The first 25 homers in his five-year career were solo shots.

Houston starter Doug Fister (3-3) allowed three hits and three runs with two walks in 6 1/3 innings for his second straight win. Luke Gregerson pitched a scoreless ninth for his seventh save.

Marte gave Seattle its only runs with a three-run triple in the seventh inning.

The Mariners had to piece together the rest of the game with three relievers after Walker’s early exit. Mayckol Guaipe ate up three innings, Mike Montgomery threw the next 1 2/3 innings and Steve Johnson finished the game.

Correa pushed the lead to 4-0 with a run-scoring single with one out in the fifth. Houston tacked on another run in that inning with a sacrifice fly by Colby Rasmus. Seattle center fielder Leonys Martin robbed Rasmus of a hit on that play when he sprinted to the base of Tal’s Hill and made an over-the-shoulder catch.

Seattle had managed just two singles entering the seventh inning before Fister plunked Nelson Cruz with one out in the seventh. Kyle Seager doubled and Adam Lind drew a walk to load the bases and chase Fister.

He was replaced by Pat Neshek and Correa stretched out to grab a sharp liner hit by Chris Iannetta for the second out of the inning. Marte followed with his bases-clearing triple to close the gap to 5-3.

The Astros added a run in the bottom of the inning when Rasmus grounded into a force out that scored Jose Altuve.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP Lance McCullers (right shoulder soreness) is scheduled to make a rehabilitation start Saturday for Triple-A Fresno at El Paso. … C Max Stassi (left wrist surgery) began a rehab assignment Tuesday with Fresno and is expected to catch McCullers on Saturday.

UP NEXT

Mariners: Nathan Karns (3-1, 3.81 ERA) will make his sixth start this season on Saturday. He’s coming off his third straight win, a 4-3 victory over the Athletics.

Astros: Ace Dallas Keuchel (2-4, 5.11) looks to get back on track after three straight losses when he starts Saturday’s game. Keuchel allowed seven hits and five runs in 4 1/3 innings - his shortest start this season - in a 6-2 loss to Minnesota on Monday that snapped his 17-game home winning streak.

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