Mariners get little going on offense and make too many mistakes against the defending world champion Astros in a 7-0 loss.
HOUSTON — It was really never theirs to win. Sure there was a time — June 2 to June 13 specifically — where the Mariners held first place in the American League West. That magical 11-game stretch allowed fans to daydream about such a possibility, which hasn’t happened much for them in the better part of a decade. But the Mariners were interlopers in a lofty spot that didn’t belong to them.
The AL West title — something that Seattle hasn’t won since 2001 — stopped being a reachable goal for this team by mid-July and on Tuesday night the inevitable became official in a 7-0 loss to the Astros. Seattle was mathematically eliminated from winning the American League West in defeat. Realistically, the Mariners eliminated themselves with their poor play out of the All-Star break.
Elimination from the postseason is yet to be official, but it’s coming. And it could happen sooner rather later if they have more performances like their 68th loss of the season. The Mariners certainly didn’t play like a postseason-worthy team, making mistakes in the field, failing with runners in scoring position and giving a better team extra opportunities.
Making his 30th start of the season, right-hander Mike Leake pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up five runs on five hits with no walks, three strikeouts and minimal defensive help behind him, particularly in a third inning that saw the Astros score four runs.
“I thought Mike Leake for the most part threw the ball really well,” manager Scott Servais said. “It was that one inning that seems to be the story of his season. In games we don’t come back and win, it’s usually one inning that gets him and it’s usually tied around some defensive play that wasn’t finished off or completed. That kind of gets the ball rolling for the opposition and that’s what happened tonight.”
After working through the first two innings without incident, Leake hit Brian McCann with a pitch after getting up 0- 2 in the count to start the inning and his problems.
“I had him 0-2 and it’s tough when put the leadoff guy on like that,” he said.
Tony Kemp, the Astros No. 9 hitter, pulled a relatively hard ground ball down the first-base line. Robinson Cano, who got the start at first base, but has shown he’s not exactly comfortable or adept at the new position, botched what should have been an out. The lumbering McCann stopped at third base, though he could have made it home because Ben Gamel had trouble picking the ball up in right field. Meanwhile, Kemp was somehow given a double on a play that should have been an error on Cano.
“It’s hard,” he said. “You are used to one position. It was a pretty hard one. I think the mistake I made was that I move left foot back instead of just leaving it there. When you are playing a different position, that’s the kind of stuff you worry about — making mistakes. That’s the last thing you want.”
Admittedly, the ball gets to him quicker than at second base.
“I’m not used to those,” Cano said. “It’s not an excuse. But I at least have to block the ball. I don’t want to say I cost us the game, but if I was able to make that play, it would’ve been a different game.”
George Springer drove in the first run of the game on a single past the diving Jean Segura. A misplay by Denard Span in left field allowed Springer to move up an extra base.
The Astros made it 2-0 when Kyle Seager mishandled a ground ball from Jose Altuve and couldn’t throw home to make a play on Kemp, instead settling for an out at first.
But the big damage came when Marwin Gonzalez launched a home run to deep left-center. Initially ruled an in-play double, replay review showed the ball was well above the yellow line that makes it a home run.
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“I got into a bad situation and left that ball up to Marwin,” Leake said.
With his single in his previous at-bat and a fly out later, Gonzalez is 8 for 14 in his career off Leake.
“Anything that comes into the zone with me, he’s geared and ready,” Leake said. “I need to learn to work him in and off the plate a little bit better.”
To his credit, Leake retired the next 11 hitters after the Gonzalez homer, but then gave up a run in the seventh to end his night.
He deserved better in the outing. But given what his teammates provided in run support, he could have been perfect and it wouldn’t have mattered.
Hard-throwing rookie Josh James and four relievers combined to hold the Mariners scoreless in a game for the sixth time this season.
Blessed with a fastball that sat in the upper 90s and touched triple digits, James pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
“Offensively, the young guy on the mound before, we hadn’t seen him before,” Servais said. “But we had some chances. We hit a few balls hard and lined out to centerfield hard a couple of times with guys in scoring position.”
Cano had three hits of the Mariners’ six hits, including two doubles on the night.
The Astros tacked on two more runs in the eighth inning off reliever Nick Rumbelow. A poor effort on a tag by Cano, now playing second, on a stolen-base attempt by Altuve cost the Mariners another out. And then Tyler White’s high fly ball to left-center went uncaught as Span and Dee Gordon had a miscommunication on the warning track, watching the ball drop between them for an RBI double.
Two mistakes from players playing out of position, it’s not surprising.
“Since Robbie came back to join the team, we knew that was a situation that we were going to try to manage and try to keep bats in there,” Servais said. “Offense has been an issue for us in the second half. In doing so, you are going to shift guys around a little bit. We weren’t able to make the plays tonight. But that’s what the plan was and we’ll stick with the plan.”