It seemed like just another run to make the defeat seem that much more decisive.
HOUSTON — It appeared to be just another run to make the defeat that much more decisive.
Mariners reliever Tyler Olson gave up a crushed, solo home run to George Springer in the bottom of the eighth that bounced off the back wall in left field of Minute Maid Park, pushing the Astros’ lead to 4-1.
It seemed inconsequential since the Mariners’ struggling offense had shown few signs of overcoming the earlier 3-1 deficit in the previous five innings.
Seattle @ Houston, 4:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
But in the top of the ninth, Seattle got solo home runs from Nelson Cruz and Logan Morrison off Houston closer Luke Gregerson to trim the lead to one run.
Most Read Sports Stories
- ESPN 'College GameDay' host Pat McAfee fires back at WSU: ‘Sick of you’
- Mariners' Cal Raleigh apologizes for comments made after M's miss playoffs
- Cal Raleigh laments Paul Sewald trade, challenges Mariners front office
- Pac-12 power rankings: UW drops after win, and WSU moves up again
- Unbeaten UW Huskies utilize small ball to hold off Arizona
And that one insurance run from the inning before? Well, it proved to be the difference in a 4-3 loss to the Astros on Friday night.
Gregerson composed himself, getting Brad Miller to ground out softly and striking out Rickie Weeks to end the drama and pick up his fifth save of the season. The Astros have won eight straight games, while the Mariners have lost two in a row.
But the loss wasn’t on Olson. He was simply mopping up after another night of absent offense that led to defeat.
Yes, the ninth-inning homers were impressive. Cruz’s solo shot on the first pitch he saw from Gregerson hit off the train that sits some 100 feet above the field in left-center.
“I hit a few off it in BP,” Cruz said. “I knew he had a three-run lead and was going to throw a strike and get ahead. I just wanted to be aggressive in that situation.”
After Gregerson got Kyle Seager to line out to left field, Morrison stepped up and pulled a slider into the right-field seats for his second homer of the season.
“It’s always good to get runs off their closer,” Morrison said. “It goes to show that we aren’t going to quit.”
It would help if they would start a little sooner.
The offense has been abysmal of late. The outbursts of runs early in the season were fleeting moments of production, disappearing like cheap fireworks. In the past 10 games, Seattle has scored more than three runs just twice — and lost one of those games. During those same 10 games, the starting pitchers have allowed more than two earned runs just once — Friday’s start from Roenis Elias, who was charged with three runs in six innings of work. It’s why they were 5-5 in that span.
In 23 games this season, they’ve scored four or more runs just nine times, losing on four of those occasions.
“With runners in scoring position, we have to do a better job,” Cruz said. “Overall, we’ve left too many runners on base. We need to improve that. The pitching is doing its job. We’ve got to step it up.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon’s frustration was evident postgame.
“We’ve got to get it going,” he said. “Whatever we’ve got to do, shake it up or whatever, we’ve got to swing the bats better. You only score two or three runs, you aren’t going to win ballgames. I’m seeing a lot of at-bats I don’t like. We are much more professional than that. You have to be able to slow things down and get it done.”
That shake up likely won’t come from Class AAA Tacoma.
“I’m not going to say after 23 games that the season is burning and let’s blow it all to hell,” McClendon said. “That’s not very responsible and not the message I want to send to my team. But do we need to work? Do we need to get some things done? Yeah. Not blow it up.”
McClendon doesn’t appear above shaking things up with the lineup and playing time, when asked.
“Whatever we’ve got to do, we’ll see,” McClendon said.
Elias looked like he would get out of the first inning unscathed, despite a four-pitch leadoff walk to Jose Altuve. With two outs, Elias was up 0-2 on the strikeout-prone Evan Gattis. But a misplaced curveball that caught too much of the plate proved to be regrettable. Gattis yanked a screaming line drive over the wall in left field for a two-run homer and a 2-0 lead.
“It was up,” Elias said. “I tried to throw it down. First and second inning it was no good for me.”
The Astros got another run in the second. But from there, Elias pitched four scoreless innings and kept the Mariners in the game, finishing with eight strikeouts.
Seattle cut into the lead in the third inning. Austin Jackson walked and scored on Robinson Cano’s double into right field.
Information in this article, originally published May 1, 2015, was corrected May 2, 2015. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the train controls Minute Maid Park’s retractable roof .