The M’s bats, which have been as hot as any team in the majors, were stymied in a 5-2 loss to Houston.
It was one of those nights when there really seemed like no other way to describe it.
“Sometimes it literally is a game of inches,’’ said manager Scott Servais after a 5-2 loss Saturday night to the team with the best record in baseball, the Houston Astros, which snapped the Mariners’ season-high six-game winning streak.
And if that might be the oldest cliché in the book, it was hard to find one better to fit a game that for want of an inch here and a foot there might have gone Seattle’s way.
Maybe, for instance, if Mitch Haniger had lined up a few feet closer to the right-field line, he might have been able to hang on to a two-out, bases-loaded drive by Houston’s Brian McCann that scored three in the seventh inning and put the Astros ahead 5-1.
Instead, the ball fell out of Haniger’s glove as he hit the ground after diving, allowing all three runners — who took off on the pitch — to easily score.
“Everybody was holding their breath,’’ Servais said. “It seemed like the ball was up there forever.’’
Haniger said he thought he had a shot at it as it left the bat.
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“But I knew it was going to be close,’’ he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to have to dive or not. Obviously, I had to leave my feet. I just couldn’t bring it in.’’
Asked if he could have done anything differently, he shook his head.
“I mean, it’s easy to say now I should have been playing more towards the line, but I’m trying to cover as much ground in right center and down the line, so. …”
The hit came on what was the fifth straight slider thrown to McCann by Steve Chisek, who fell behind 2-0 then made it 2-2, the second strike coming on a call that McCann protested.
“I fell behind 2-0, that was the killer,’’ Cishek said. “If I was ahead, I would probably have thrown a fastball in on him. But with him looking at two backdoor sliders without even offering at it, I mean I’ve got to go back there again. He got just enough of it and baseball is a game of inches, man. Haniger almost made an outstanding play. It was a great effort. It just didn’t go our way.’’
The same could be said of an unlikely comeback by Seattle in the ninth inning.
The game seemed all but over when Seattle had two outs sandwiching a Nelson Cruz double in the bottom of the ninth.
But Houston closer Ken Giles walked Haniger and Jarrod Dyson to load the bases. That compelled Servais to pinch-hit for Taylor Motter with Mike Zunino, who entered the game with 29 runs batted in in June, the most in the majors.
Houston @ Mariners, 1:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
Giles appeared to pitch Zunino carefully and walked him on a full count, making Zunino the 11th player in Seattle history to drive in 30 or more runs in a month.
That brought up Carlos Ruiz, who scorched a drive down the third-base line that again left Servais and the Mariners breathless for a second or two.
Had it been fair, the game would have been tied, with everyone running on the pitch.
Instead, it was foul by a foot or so, and Ruiz struck out looking on the next pitch.
“Chooch misses a big hit late by maybe a foot,’’ Servais said.
The late near-misses made it easy to forget that Seattle was dominated for most of the first five innings by Houston starter Lance McCullers, who was making his first start since June 8. He used his menacing curveball and didn’t allow a base runner until the fifth inning, retiring the first 12 batters he faced to shut down a Mariners offense that had scored five or more runs in its last six games, averaging almost seven per outing.
McCullers left after allowing two hits to start the sixth, but the Mariners got just one run out of it.
Houston had taken a 2-0 lead in the third on a two-run homer by Josh Reddick off rookie Sam Gaviglio, who again gave the Mariners a quality start. He allowed just two runs in six innings, the fifth time in seven starts he has allowed two or fewer runs while going at least five innings since being called up to replace the injured Hisashi Iwakuma.
The Mariners might have had more options in the bottom of the ninth but first baseman Danny Valencia was a late scratch due to a sore right wrist.
Servais said after the game that Valencia has been playing with it for a little while but felt it again in his final at-bat in Friday’s 13-3 win.