The Mariners keep battling, but a series that started with fireworks ended with two tough defeats.
Seattle continued a rough and turbulent couple of days, losing 11-4 Wednesday afternoon to the Houston Astros in the deciding game of the three-game set at T-Mobile Park.
Anything had seemed possible for the Mariners after they opened the homestand by taking three of four games from Oakland, then rallied from seven runs down Monday night to beat the AL West-leading Astros in one of their most dramatic wins in years.
They moved nine games over .500 for the first time this season, got within a game of Oakland for the final wild-card spot, and a success-starved fan base had reason to believe.
A lot has happened since.
The Mariners made an unpopular trade Tuesday afternoon when they dealt reliever Kendall Graveman, then lost that night despite a late rally. It was more of the same Wednesday afternoon.
The Mariners certainly didn’t play themselves out of playoff contention with two losses and are just two games behind Oakland. But they head out on a huge 10-game road trip without any of the momentum that they had.
“That was obviously not the way we wanted to wrap up a very positive homestand,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais, who was ejected in the fourth inning. “I thought our guys had played great here all week long, but today that Astros offense and what they were able to do — they just keep grinding out at-bats.”
The Mariners got through the first inning without allowing a run — a welcome change for them after allowing nine first-inning runs in the first two games of the series — but the Astros scored at least one run in every other inning until the ninth.
The Astros scored their first run without getting a ball out of the infield, in part because of an error by shortstop J.R. Crawford. The error also was costly because of the extra pitches Yusei Kikuchi had to make, needing 32 to get through the second inning.
The Astros scored single runs in the next three innings, and the run in the fourth had to be extra galling to Servais.
With runners on first and second, Aledmys Diaz checked his swing on a pitch that appeared to be near the outside corner.
It was ruled a ball, and the Mariners were denied in a delayed appeal to first-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt that Diaz had swung. Seconds later, Servais was booted and got into a fiery argument with Wendelstedt before exiting.
Diaz followed with a run-scoring single. It was that kind of a day for the Mariners.
“From my angle, clearly he swung the bat,” Servais of Diaz. “At times, the home-plate umpire does not see it, but just check. … Tried to get (the home-plate umpire’s) attention, and he finally did check it, and (Wendelstedt) just threw me out of the game, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. It was fiery series all along.”
Kikuchi left after five innings and 101 pitches. He allowed four runs — three earned — on seven hits, including Gurriel’s homer in the fifth. He walked two and struck out seven.
“I actually thought Yusei Kikuchi threw the ball pretty good today,” Servais said. “They got single runs in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings … but his stuff was not bad at all.”
It got much worse in the sixth inning, with Houston scoring four runs to make it 8-0. It should have been two runs, but Jarred Kelenic fell down in center field on what looked like a routine fly out to end the inning.
Instead, it became a gift run-scoring single for Gurriel, and Correa followed with a run-scoring double.
That lead looked pretty safe, but the Mariners made it interesting. And why not? After rallying from seven runs down to win Monday, they made a big rally Tuesday, losing 8-6 with the potential winning run at home plate after trailing by six runs.
Kyle Seager got the Mariners on the scoreboard in the sixth inning Wednesday by homering in his third straight game. Two batters later, Abraham Toro hit a two-run shot — his second in two games after coming from Houston in the Graveman trade — to make it 8-3.
That caused Houston manager Dusty Baker to relieve starter Jake Odorizzi. In came Brooks Raley, who allowed the game-winning grand slam to Dylan Moore on Monday. Raley walked two hitters, but struck out Shed Long to end the inning,
Houston added a run in the seventh inning, but the Mariners weren’t done. Kelenic walked with two outs and the bases loaded to make it 9-4. Seattle was one big hit from getting back in the game. But Tom Murphy struck out looking to end the inning.
The Astros scored twice more in the eighth inning, and the Mariners were out of rallies.
“We got the bases loaded a couple of times, and we did some good things to hang in there, but not enough today to win this series,” Servais said.