HOUSTON — Hours before the first pitch of what would be yet another loss at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night, this time a 4-0 shutout, Mariners manager Scott Servais was asked about the looming milestone for Dusty Baker. With the next Astros victory, it would be Baker’s 2,000th win as a manager.

“I hope it comes in a couple days,” Servais said with a chuckle before saying the accomplishment is “phenomenal” and “quite a feat.”

But given the Mariners inability to beat the Astros in Houston over the last four seasons, well, it was easy to plan an expected celebration of the achievement.

As for Servais, he has 1,550 more wins to reach 2,000. And playing at Minute Maid certainly won’t expedite his climb to that total.

“It’s a hell of an accomplishment,” Servais said postgame. “I sent a text over to him to congratulate him. It really couldn’t happen to a better man.”

The Mariners have now lost 25 of their last 29 games at Minute Maid Park and will have to find a way to beat Justin Verlander in Wednesday afternoon’s series finale to avoid being swept in the three-game series.

Advertising

“Our guys are grinding,” Servais said. “They’re trying to get something going and there’s nothing we can do about today’s game. We’re going to come out tomorrow, it’s the last game on the road trip, and try to salvage something here in Houston.”

The last time the Mariners were faced with the possibility of being swept — the previous series on the road trip — they roughed up Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara in a 7-3 win.

Can they do it against Verlander?

Getting held scoreless for 18 straight innings isn’t a precursor to success. Seattle hadn’t been shut out in back-to-back games since Sept. 24-25, 2019, at T-Mobile Park, which was, of course, the Astros.

Verlander is responsible for one of the times the Mariners have been held scoreless this season. He tossed eight shutout innings, allowing just three hits and striking out eight in a 4-0 Houston win at T-Mobile Park on April 16.

“We’re at a moment in time,” Servais said. “This happens throughout the course of the season. Maybe we’ll look to make a few adjustments to the lineup or whatever, go out tomorrow and hopefully we can turn it around.”

Similar to the night before, the duo of Yordan Alvarez and Jeremy Pena provided the bulk of the runs for Houston, while the Mariners’ offense was held scoreless for the second straight game.

Advertising

Seattle got a solid start from right-hander Chris Flexen, who worked five innings, allowing one run on two hits with three walks and two strikeouts.  

The one run allowed came in the fourth inning on a solo homer from Alvarez — his fourth in five games and second of the series.

Alvarez pulverized a fastball on the inner half, sending a deep blast into the Budweiser beer garden area beyond the center-field wall. It measured 435 feet.

With the 2-3-4 hitters in the Astros lineup — Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Alvarez — coming to the plate in the sixth, Servais went to his bullpen, not wanting Flexen to face those hitters for a third time. Lefty Anthony Misiewicz retired Brantley and Bregman on fly outs but walked Alvarez.

Servais went to right-hander Diego Castillo for the final out. That didn’t come until four batters later.

Castillo gave up a single to Yuli Gurriel on the first pitch he threw and then walked Kyle Tucker on five pitches. With the bases loaded, Pena dumped a single into left field to score a pair of runs and push the lead to 3-0.

Advertising

“The third time is something that probably we weren’t real comfortable doing,” Servais said of Flexen. “He did his job and our bullpen was rested. Our bullpen has been one of the strengths of our ballclub. Miz got the two quick outs. Diego just wasn’t on top of his game tonight. That happens once in a while unfortunately.”

A three-run deficit felt like a 30-run deficit for a Mariners team in an offensive funk.

Seattle managed just four singles, two walks and a hit by pitch for seven total base runners. The Mariners had just one runner reach second base and were held without an extra-base hit in the first two games of this series.

The struggle to generate offense also resulted in some anger toward plate umpire C.B. Bucknor, who Mariners fans will remember for his run-ins with Lou Piniella.

Bucknor’s strike zone at times resembled an abstract painting leading to an outburst from J.P. Crawford in the fifth inning when he was called out on a third strike.

“Guys were frustrated,” Servais said. “We’ve got a lot of competitors in this room. When you don’t get a call and you’re trying to grind to start off an inning and you get the bat taken out your hands down, it’s not right.”

Bucknor drew ire from both teams throughout the game. But Crawford’s comments, which were picked up by field microphones on the broadcast, were noted.

“You never try to show anyone up like that, but those calls can’t happen,” Crawford said. “We get penalized if we don’t play well. Umpires, if they don’t do well, they sleep fine. Their jobs are secure. They don’t get penalized for nothing. I think that’s stupid. I feel like if they would get penalized for everything, they would call much better games.”

BOX SCORE