HOUSTON — Even if they find a way to salvage a victory in Sunday’s series finale, and nothing about the first two games of this three-game series at Minute Maid Park would make one believe that’s possible, the Mariners have been absolutely handled in this series vs. the Astros, a team that has owned them for the better part of the past three seasons.
It was never more apparent than Saturday afternoon when the Astros hammered the Mariners 15-1, turning the game into a rout almost as quickly as it started, leaving the only drama to be which position player might pitch for the Mariners.
With a 12-3 drubbing Friday, the Mariners have been outscored 27-4 in two games.
“Just not our day here the last couple days,” manager Scott Servais said. “You have to give the Astros a lot of credit, they’re really hot right now. And we need to make some adjustments pitching-wise, but this is where we’re at. They’ve blown our doors off the last couple days, there’s not a whole lot more you can say about it.”
In six games at Minute Maid this season, the Mariners are 1-5 and have been outscored 41-12. They are 4-8 against Houston this season and two of those wins came in a series where Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Alex Bregman were missing due to COVID-19 guidelines.
The Mariners haven’t endured many beatings like this in the 2021 season. They’ve prided themselves in being competitive in games.
“It’s gotten away from us early in a couple of these games” Servais said. “But the effort level, the preparation — our guys are doing the same thing they’ve been doing all year long. We’re not maybe executing, and there are mistakes. Once in a while you make some mistakes, they pop it up or they roll it over or you get the key double play ball to get you out of inning. That’s not happening here the last couple days, and you have to give credit where it’s due and they are swinging the bat very well.”
The Astros banged out 15 hits with Jose Altuve getting four and scoring three runs. Taylor Jones, who was a standout player at Kentwood and later Gonzaga, finished a single away from the cycle while driving in four runs.
Facing the Astros for the first time in his career, a team he will need to beat in the future as one of the top pitchers in the projected rotation, Logan Gilbert got to endure what so many other Mariners pitchers have felt over the past years at Minute Maid Park. That unenjoyable baptism by hits and earned runs allowed, resulted in his worst outing as a big leaguer. His final line: 4 2/3 innings, nine runs allowed on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
“They capitalized on mistakes,” Gilbert said. “And it’s fine line between making good pitches in the zone, but not leaving it over the plate. And when it does happen, they make you pay. So I look forward to facing them again, and hopefully a lot more starts against them.”
He also got to experience the unique short porch in left field known as the Crawford Boxes. With the Astros leading 2-0, Gilbert found trouble in the third inning. With runners on first and second, he threw a changeup to Yordan Alvarez, who hit a flyball to left field.
As left fielder Jake Fraley tracked the ball, waiting to catch it, he realized the outcropping of seats would catch it first. It was a game-changing three-run homer for Alvarez and a 5-0 lead for Houston.
“That kind of stuff happens,” Gilbert said. “Not the best pitch. I left it a little up, but I didn’t want to walk them. I didn’t want to pitch around people. I want to get right after them and make them swing the bat. That’s what they did.”
Per MLB Stcast, Alvarez’s 354-foot “homer” wouldn’t have gone out in any other park in MLB.
“This ballpark has its challenges,” Servais said. “Both teams are playing in the same yard. Obviously, they’re used to playing 81 games here and then can take advantage of it at times. But yeah, I can’t imagine there’s too many ballparks where that’s a home run in. Unfortunately, it hurt us at a key moment there with a couple guys on base and it does really sway the game definitely in their favor at that point.”
Gilbert exited the game after giving up an RBI single to Yuli Gurriel on his 97th pitch of the day that made it 7-0. After a brief visit with Servais, he trudged to the dugout, leaving a pair of runners on base for right-hander Robert Dugger. Those runner didn’t remain on base for long.
“Logan is learning,” Servais said. “He learned a lot today. I know he was very frustrated coming off the mound. This guy’s a heck of a competitor. He does not back down. You can see it, down in the game five and six runs, and he’s still trying to execute pitches and his stuff was still good. He just didn’t get the results he was hoping for today.”
Servais made sure Gilbert knew that before he went to the clubhouse.
“I thought with his demeanor, his effort level, he doesn’t back down and he’s very impressive in that regard,” Servais said. “We all like his talent. But I really like his makeup. And that is going to serve him well through the course of his career when he does get the consistency going and when he understands the league a little bit better and gets a ton of experience, which is going to happen. He’s going to have a really bright future ahead of him.”
Dugger served up an RBI double to Jones and a two-run single to Jake Meyers that made it 10-0, two of the three runs allowed were charged to Gilbert.
Called up Saturday morning when right-hander Diego Castillo was placed on the 10-day injured list, Dugger served as the sacrificial arm in the blowout and guaranteeing his stint his latest MLB call-up likely will be less than 24 hours. He gave up six runs (five earned) on seven hits in the final 3 1/3 innings pitched.
Seattle’s lone run came on a solo homer from Mitch Haniger, who now was 28 on the season.