Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez gave up six runs in four innings pitched

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HOUSTON — With each defeat, the number of games and chances for an improbable run diminishes and the Mariners’ hopes of playing in the postseason fade just a little more.

Following Saturday afternoon’s 8-6 loss to the Astros, Seattle, now 74-75 on the season, has 13 games remaining in the season. The obituary of the Mariners’ 2017 season hasn’t been written, but it’s being outlined.

Not only would it take them winning at least eight or nine of those 13 games to even have an outside chance, but it would also require the Twins and Angels to both start losing at a significant rate.

That’s difficult to see happening, particularly following yet another loss to the Astros. The Mariners have now lost five in a row to Houston and face right-hander Justin Verlander to close out the road trip and the season series. Perhaps the best thing is for the Mariners is that they won’t play the Astros again this season. They are 5-13 vs. Houston this season and it is easy to wonder how they won those five games against a team that has seemed so superior to them and just about everyone else in the American League.

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“That’s a tough team,” manager Scott Servais said quietly postgame.

The Astros got a solid start from staff ace Dallas Keuchel and roughed up Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez for four runs in the second inning to take control of the game early.

Ramirez saw his streak of six consecutive starts of six innings pitched or more came to an end, pitching four innings and allowing six runs on eight hits with three walks and five strikeouts. It was largely due to that second inning where he threw needed 33 pitches and faced all nine Astros hitters.

“He’s that happen a couple of times where he will fall off the rails a little bit,” Servais said. “His command and stuff wasn’t sharp in that second inning. He hung in there, but it was obviously not his best outing for us. He walked a few more guys more than normal, left a few balls up in the zone and just wasn’t able to work his way through their lineup.”

Perhaps most frustrating for Ramirez and the Mariners is that all the damage came with two outs. After giving up a leadoff single and a walk to start the frame, Ramirez came back and struck out Brian McCann and got Yuli Gurriel to fly out.

“We were a pitch away from getting out of that mess,” Servais said. “But they put good at-bats on him.”

But that third out wouldn’t come for five more batters. Rookie Derek Fisher, the No. 9 hitter, dumped a double just inside the left-field line to score a run.

“I didn’t expect the ball to stay fair the way he hit it,” Ramirez said. “Then I made a mistake pitch.”

That came against the next batter, George Springer, who continued his torture of Seattle pitching with a two-run single up the middle.  Jose Reddick followed with a double into left center to make it 4-0.

“That inning was tough,” Ramirez said. “I was behind in a lot of counts and pitches were hanging.”

A four-run deficit in the second inning isn’t impossible to overcome, particularly for a team that had scored 28 runs in the last three games against the Rangers. But as was apparent on Friday night against Charlie Morton and again on Saturday against Keuchel, the Mariners were facing significantly better starting pitching from the Astros compared to the Rangers.

And the deficit didn’t actually stay at four runs. It ballooned to 6-0 in the fifth with the Astros picking up two more off of Ramirez.

Keuchel worked six innings allowing one run on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He cruised through the first four innings, allowing one hit. In the fifth, the Mariners loaded the bases with one out, thanks to a pair of Keuchel walks. But the Houston lefty showed why he’s won the Gold Glove for American League pitchers three times in his career. He made a nice grab of Taylor Motter’s hard comebacker and fired home to start a 1-2-3, inning-ending double play.

“He’s a very good fielder and he handled it flawlessly,” Servais said. “You are only get limited chances against him. We had one there and didn’t cash in.”

The Mariners lone run against Keuchel came in the sixth when Jean Segura yanked a leadoff homer down the left field line to cut the lead to 6-1. Mitch Haniger followed with a single, but Keuchel concluded his outing by striking out Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager to end the inning.

Seattle made it somewhat interesting in the eighth, scoring four runs and cutting the lead to 7-5. Cano pulled a two-run single with bases loaded through the right side off of reliever Frances Martes and Cruz followed with a RBI single. Facing lefty specialist Tony Sipp, Seager also singled to score a run.

But reliever John Musgrove entered and struck out pinch hitters Mike Zunino and Ben Gamel and got Carlos Ruiz to hit a soft broken bat liner to end the inning.

“We competed right through the end,” Servais said. “But our hole we dug was just a little too big and we couldn’t quite get out of it.”