- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - A slight pause by Tony Sipp made all the difference for the Houston Astros on Thursday night.

Michael Saunders barely beat Sipp to first base for a two-run infield single with two outs in the seventh inning to lift the Seattle Mariners to a 3-1 win over the Astros.

With the game tied at 1, the bases loaded, two outs and a full count, Saunders hit a chopper to first and narrowly outraced Sipp, who was covering the bag.

“It was so close, I didn’t know whose feet hit first,” Sipp said. “It could have gone either way. Looking back, I feel I could have got there quicker. It’s one of those things you can’t get back.”

A replay review showed Saunders did get to the bag first. The batters were running on the pitch, allowing two runs to score.

“It is tough to lose that way,” Houston manager Bo Porter said. “We made the pitches to get out of it, but at the same time if we break right to the bag I think we get them.”

Jose Altuve homered on the game’s first pitch for the Astros, who have lost three in a row.

Houston starter Jarred Cosart (3-4) had kept Seattle’s offense largely bottled up until the seventh inning.

Dustin Ackley and Stefen Romero led off with singles and Cosart walked Nick Franklin to load the bases with no outs. Cosart struck out Mike Zunino before giving way to Sipp, who got pinch hitter Cole Gillespie to pop up before coming up just short of beating Saunders and getting out of the inning.

“It’s one of those things that will eat at me for a while,” Sipp said. “You try to assess the situation, see what was what and it was that little half second that I got beat by.”

Sipp had retired 21 consecutive batters before Saunders’ single.

“Tony came in and we felt like we were going to get out of it,” Porter said. “We were a groundball away and covering first from getting out of it.”

Cosart gave up three runs on five hits and over 6 1-3 innings.

“He was throwing a lot of fastballs, was working in and out pretty well,” Romero said.

Cosart struck out six but walked four, Cosart’s second straight start with four walks.

“I’ve got to figure out why I’m walking people,” Cosart said. “If I put somebody on base they usually score. They haven’t been getting hits to score the runs, they’ve been walking, then get a hit and score. I just have to stop walking guys, bottom line.”

Seattle starter Roenis Elias pitched into the sixth inning, allowing three hits, with the only run coming on Altuve’s leadoff homer. Elias struck out six, walked four and pitched out of jams a couple times early - the first two batters reached in the second and third innings - before settling down.

“We expanded our zone a little too much with a guy that did not show he was going to command the zone,” Porter said.

Altuve took Elias’ opening pitch deep into the visitor’s bullpen in right field for his second home run. It was Altuve’s third career leadoff homer and first this season.

The Mariners scratched out a run in the bottom of the first. James Jones led off with a walk, advanced to third on Saunders’ single and scored on Robinson Cano’s sacrifice fly to center.

Dominic Leone (1-0) pitched 1 2-3 innings for his first major league win in 16 appearances, and Fernando Rodney pitched a perfect ninth for his 12th save.

NOTES: Houston OF George Springer was held out of the lineup after injuring his hip while getting picked off in the ninth inning Wednesday. Astros manager Bo Porter said Springer could be back as soon as Friday. … Altuve has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games.

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