If the Mariners haven’t hit rock bottom yet, they at least found something close to it against the Houston Astros on Monday night.
On consecutive pitches during the decisive sixth inning, two Mariners outfielders crashed into the wall attempting to chase down long drives. Each time, the ball caromed just out of reach, off the wall and safely to the ground.
The Mariners’ crash into the proverbial wall has been just as hard.
The Astros rocked Felix Hernandez — no, that’s not a typo — for four runs on four extra-base hits in the sixth inning, and the Mariners lost their seventh consecutive game by a score of 7-2 before a crowd of 14,630 at Safeco Field.
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“I’m the ace,” Hernandez said. “I gotta go out and do my best to stop that (streak).”
Hernandez (3-1) allowed six runs on seven hits in seven innings to take his first defeat of the season. Houston’s four runs in the sixth were all unearned.
“It was really tough. I came with the mentality to stop the losing streak. I didn’t do it,” he said. “It was not my best stuff today. My curveball was up and my change-up was a little up.”
The Astros (6-14), who own the American League’s worst record, snapped a seven-game losing streak.
“Things are tough right now … but we’ll be OK,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Hernandez was sharp early, setting down the Astros in order through three innings. Entering the fifth, he had allowed only Dexter Fowler’s infield single in the fourth.
Then with one out in the fifth, Matt Dominguez pulled an inside change-up from Hernandez and sent it beyond the left-field fence, a two-run blast that gave Houston a 2-0 lead.
The Mariners finally got to Houston left-hander Dallas Keuchel (2-1) in the fifth, when Abraham Almonte tied it at 2-2 with an opposite-field double down the first-base line. That scored Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino.
Those would be the Mariners’ only runs of the night.
Keuchel scattered six hits over six innings, with two runs allowed, one walk and eight strikeouts.
Houston closer Josh Fields, the Mariners’ former first-round choice, struck out the side in the ninth to end it. Mariners batters struck out a combined 14 times.
Another shuffle to the Mariners’ lineup did little to spark their stagnant offense. Dustin Ackley, who entered the day leading the club with a .279 batting average, was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts in his first game of the season as the No. 2 hitter.
Brad Miller, who moved down from second to ninth in the order, was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.
“When you lose seven in a row, you’re looking for a lot of things: You’re looking for good pitching, you’re looking for defense, you’re looking for hits,” McClendon said. “One thing I tell my players is, ‘The only people that are going to right the ship is us. You can talk about stats, you can talk about defense, you can talk about offense … you just gotta go out and play. Relax and play the game.’ ”
Houston’s four runs in the sixth inning were unearned after Seager dropped a throw from Zunino at third base. Seager appeared to take his eye off the ball as Jose Altuve, who led off the inning with a double, slid into third on Fowler’s sacrifice bunt.
“I went for the tag a little too quickly,” Seager said. “Obviously, you have to catch the ball first.”
Jason Castro had a sacrifice fly to score Altuve and give the Astros a 3-2 lead. With two outs and two strikes, Marc Krauss added a run-scoring double to right.
Alex Presley followed with a towering triple off the wall in right field for a 5-2 lead. Seattle’s Stefen Romero made a valiant, leaping effort, crashing into the wall just as the ball hit the end of his glove.
On the next pitch, Dominguez hit another drive to left. Ackley gave chase and crashed into the wall, the ball falling for a double. That made it 6-2.
“You could put above-average outfielders out there, and those would’ve been difficult plays,” McClendon said.
Krauss added a solo home run off Tom Wilhelmsen in the eighth.
“I don’t expect them to be Superman. I expect that guys will go out and play the game,” McClendon said. “Right now, we’re just not getting it done.”
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.