George Springer’s three-run homer in the 13th inning lifted the Astros to a 5-3 victory over the Mariners.
HOUSTON — They were happy to have a lead because, well, they’ve only led in a game two times in the first three games of the season — both coming on Wednesday night.
But given what had transpired in the top of the 13th inning and the previous innings’ failures leading up to it, and knowing what was awaiting in the bottom of the inning, the Mariners should have known that a 3-2 advantage wouldn’t be enough.
And it wasn’t.
Mariners @ Houston, 5:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
George Springer’s three-run, walkoff homer in the bottom of the 13th off rookie right-hander Chase De Jong delivered a gut-punch 5-3 loss to the Mariners, keeping them winless in the season’s first three games.
“It was just one of those crazy games that ended up really being crazier than I could have imagined,” manager Scott Servais said. “We had a lot of chances tonight to score more than we did. We just didn’t get it done there.”
The words — frustrating or disappointing — could also be used as modifiers to describe the outcome.
While Springer’s heroics won the game for the Astros, it was the continued failure to hit with runners in scoring position that lost the game for the Mariners well before De Jong even stepped to the mound.
No instance summed up those struggles better than the top of the 13th, when Seattle grabbed a 3-2 lead.
Right-handed reliever Jandel Gustave entered the game and promptly walked the first three batters he faced. Astros manager A.J. Hinch pulled Gustave for right-hander Brad Peacock — his last remaining reliever. Peacock walked the first batter he faced — Kyle Seager — to force in a run and give the Mariners a 3-2 lead.
Servais was hoping for more — a sacrifice fly would be good, a base hit outstanding and anything else would be gravy. But it needed to be more than one run, particularly with De Jong trying to close it out and the Astros’ lineup.
The Mariners got only the one run.
Danny Valencia hit a pop-up to shallow center that wasn’t deep enough for Robinson Cano to tag up at third. Mike Zunino struck out and Jarrod Dyson struck out, inning over.
M’s @ Astros, 5:10 p.m., ROOT
“We should have added more there, there’s no doubt,” Servais said. “We had them on the ropes. They gave us a crack and we should have jumped right through with three or four there.”
Instead, the 23-year-old De Jong came jogging in from the bullpen to protect a one-run lead in his major-league debut. Having used seven relievers on the night, Servais had no other options.
De Jong was only with the team because left-handed reliever Dillon Overton was on the paternity list for the birth of his first child. He came into the game having pitched almost all of last season at the Class AA level, making one start at the Class AAA level to end the season.
“It doesn’t get any tougher making your major-league debut in that spot,” Servais said.
It would have been a magical story line if he could have notched the save in his debut and secured the Mariners’ first win of the season. But De Jong couldn’t do it.
He issued a one-out walk to Evan Gattis and then later gave up a two-out, shift-beating single to former Mariner Norichika Aoki. The light-hitting Aoki bounced a ball to third base, but the Mariners had Seager shifted over closer to shortstop based on Aoki’s tendencies.
“Most of the time he would hit the ball that way to the six hole,” Seager said. “I don’t remember him ever hitting the ball down the line too much. That was the report. We went over it in the meetings.”
With the tying run on second and the go-ahead run on first, De Jong fell behind 2-0, but came back to get the count to full.
Springer then sent a 3-2 curveball high to left field toward the edge of the short porch known as the Crawford Boxes in left field. With left fielder Dyson thinking it might somehow fall to him just to the right of the seats, the ball landed in the first row for a homer.
“He took a big swing,” De Jong said. “It caught a lot of the plate. I knew it had a chance. It looked like he just got enough. I’ve got to make a better pitch in that scenario.”
The Mariners should have given him more of a cushion to avoid the scenario. But the failures in top of the 13th were symptomatic of the season-starting slump.
Seattle hitters went 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position and struck out 14 times. They are 1 for 27 with runners in scoring position to start the season.
Jean Segura provided all of the M’s offense in regulation with one swing in the fifth inning.
Segura stayed on a 1-1 curveball from Astros starter Charlie Morton and drove the ball to right field. It had just enough carry to get over the wall and out of the reach of Springer. The two-run homer was the first for the Mariners, and it also gave them their first lead of the season.
Seattle got an outstanding start from James Paxton, who pitched six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits with one walk and five strikeouts.
With the exception of the third inning, Paxton looked dominant, showing a fastball that sat consistently at 97 mph and a biting curveball.
Paxton found himself in serious trouble with one out in the third inning. He appeared to have Springer struck out swinging on a nasty curveball in the dirt. But the ball skipped away from Zunino for a wild pitch and Springer was able to sprint to first safely. Alex Bregman followed with a double into the left-field corner, giving the Astros runners on second and third with their Nos. 3 and 4 hitters coming to the plate.
But Paxton didn’t give in. He won a nine-pitch battle with Mariners nemesis Jose Altuve, striking out the diminutive hitting machine with a curveball in the dirt. Paxton then got Carlos Correa to fly out to center to end the inning.
From there Paxton retired 11 of the next 12 batters he faced. The one exception was a swinging strike three on Altuve (0 for 6) that also got by Zunino for another wild pitch.
|What Mariners hitters have done with runners in scoring position:|
|Monday (L, 3-0)||0-4||.000|
|Tuesday (L, 2-1)||1-10||.100|
|Wednesday (L, 5-3)||0-13||.000|