The Mariners (11-10) hadn’t lost a game by more than two runs in two weeks.
Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano won’t lie. He checks the scores around the league, including on the scoreboard in left field at Safeco Field, and he also checks the standings.
“It’s kind of hard to say, ‘No, I’m not looking,’ ” Cano said. “I love this game so much, and I’m the kind of guy that I like to go home when you’re winning to know what’s going on around the league.”
So even after the Mariners’ 7-4 loss Wednesday to the Houston Astros, Cano focused on the big picture, and the big picture is this: The Mariners took two of three games from the Astros and won their fourth straight series.
The loss dropped the Mariners (11-10) out of first place in the American League West, and the disclaimers about the season being early are true — to a point.
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For a reminder of the importance of these April series, Cano needed only to reflect on his first season with the Mariners in 2014. The Mariners finished 87-75 and had a chance to make the playoffs heading into the final game. But they came up short and pointed to their struggles in April as part of the problem.
“You look back to my first year, and we weren’t winning series in the first month, and we ended up not making it by one game,” Cano said. “You’re in the fight. You never know what can happen from here on. You can keep winning and you can keep in the race. When you start the season and everyone is far away from you like last year, it’s hard to bounce back and be able to be in the race. But we’re playing good — pitching, defense and offense are there. So we’ve just got to keep focused.”
The Mariners just weren’t as crisp against the Astros as they had been the last two weeks.
Starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma labored from the first batter — he gave up a home run to Houston leadoff hitter Jose Altuve on the third pitch of the game. He never really recovered, battling but still giving up five runs in five innings.
He snapped a streak of five games in which Mariners starters pitched at least seven innings. Not surprisingly, the Mariners were 4-1 during that stretch.
“When I needed to execute, I couldn’t execute,” Iwakuma said, “and they made me pay for that.”
Said Mariners manager Scott Servais: “The crispness to his fastball location was probably the biggest difference.”
Cano continued his hot start offensively by driving in three more runs. Adam Lind drove in the Mariners’ other run with a solo homer, his first with the Mariners.
Cano has 24 RBI this season; he needed 70 games to reach that total last year. He also hit another home run, his eighth this season. He didn’t hit his eighth homer until the 88th game last year.
Reliever Mayckol Guaipe, recalled this week from Class AAA Tacoma, allowed two runs (one earned) in his first appearance this season. The Mariners put two runners on with no outs in both the eighth and ninth innings but produced just one run.
Yet Cano looked at the big picture more than the immediate result.
“We lost tonight, but we won the series,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”