The Mariners were unable to pick up a seventh straight series victory as the Astros salvaged a split of the four-game set with a 5-1 win on Sunday.
HOUSTON — The Mariners’ streak of series wins ended at six on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park with a nondescript 5-1 loss to the Houston Astros.
It wasn’t an ideal culmination to what was still a successful trip, but Seattle (18-13) managed to split the four-game series with Houston and finished the trip 5-2. And that was a source of optimism postgame.
“Excellent trip, outstanding,” manager Scott Servais said. “I thought we played very well on the trip. We did not hit today, but for most of the trip Robby (Cano) has been carrying us, but coming off the last homestand, we continued to play good ball. We just kind of had a dud today.”
Tampa Bay @ Seattle, 7:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
The Mariners return to Safeco Field on Monday to open a six-game, seven-day stretch, starting with a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
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“We can’t be too selfish about it,” Cano said. “We won five games and only lost two. That’s a good road trip. Now we just need to rest tonight and be ready for the next series.”
The Mariners scoring on Sunday consisted of Cano’s solo homer off Astros starter Collin McHugh in the fourth inning. Down 3-0, Cano led off the inning by belting his AL-leading 12th homer of the season into the right-field seats to make it 3-1.
In seven games this season against the Astros, Cano is hitting .467 (14 for 30) with a double, five homers, 17 RBI and a 1.484 on-base slugging percentage. He also leads the league in RBI with 33.
“I’m just trying to do my job,” Cano said.
But that was the only run McHugh (4-3) allowed in seven innings. He gave up five hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
“He was throwing his breaking ball for a strike and using both sides of the plate,” Cano said.
Meanwhile, Hisashi Iwakuma gave the Mariners a so-so start, allowing three runs in five innings with seven hits, two walks and eight strikeouts.
“Overall, I thought I had life on my fastball,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “They made me work. They got my pitch count up. The least I can do is go six innings and I couldn’t do that.”
The Astros’ speed and aggressiveness on the bases, particularly nemesis Jose Altuve, was an issue. The Astros stole five bases and Altuve swiped three of them. Houston took advantage of Iwakuma’s slow delivery to home out of the stretch and Steve Clevenger’s reputation for not being an elite catch-and-throw player behind the plate.
“They are an athletic team and we knew that coming into the series,” Servais said. “Clev wasn’t as accurate as he normally has been, throwing wise. But it’s a combination of things. They’ve got to work together holding him and getting pitches thrown on and executing the throw.”
The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on back-to-back two-out doubles from Luis Valbuena and Tyler White.
But the third inning is where the game’s outcome shifted. Iwakuma gave up a one-out infield single to Altuve. The diminutive speedster stole second with relative ease and later stole third with two outs, getting such a massive jump that Clevenger didn’t even attempt a throw. After Iwakuma walked Carlos Correa and conceded second base to him on a steal with Altuve at third, things got weird.
Iwakuma got ahead of Colby Rasmus with a 1-2 count and with the Mariners in a shift, Rasmus stunned everyone by dropping a bunt down the third-base line, just beating out the throw from Iwakuma, who made a nice barehanded play and throw to first to make it close. It went for a single and Altuve raced home to make it 2-0.
“A two-strike, two-out bunt, you’ve got to give Rasmus credit, he executed the play,” Servais said. “It’s a tough play. It’s a risky play. But it worked for him.”
It caught Iwakuma by surprise.
“It was a good move on their end,” Iwakuma said. “It was unexpected.”
Marwin Gonzalez followed with a ground-ball single just through the left side of the infield to score Correa and make it 3-0.
After working a 1-2-3 sixth inning, Mayckol Guaipe gave up two runs in the seventh, aided by a throwing error by Clevenger on an Altuve steal of second and a misplay from Ketel Marte at shortstop.
Seattle had just five hits and missed the presence of Nelson Cruz, who got a day off to rest his ailing forearm.