Ariel Miranda allowed no hits through six innings, but was pulled after throwing 112 pitches. Houston’s Cameron Maybin hit a two-run homer in the seventh to snap a 1-1 tie as the Astros won in Justin Verlander’s debut with the club.
The story line almost certainly had to be Justin Verlander on Tuesday night at Safeco Field.
But Mariners starter Ariel Miranda earned himself equal billing with Verlander, the longtime Detroit Tigers ace, who was making his first start with the Houston Astros after being dealt last week.
Miranda pushed himself into the spotlight by pitching six no-hit innings, but this story did not have a happy ending for the Mariners. Reliever Emilio Pagan served up a two-run homer to Cameron Maybin with one out in the seventh that not only ended the no-hit bid but also was the decisive blow in the Mariners’ 3-1 loss.
The Mariners fell to 69-70 after losing their second straight in the series to Houston. And for the second straight game, the Mariners missed a chance to gain ground in the race for the second wild card, falling three games behind.
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“There was a lot of good pitching tonight,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais about both teams. “I thought Ariel Miranda pitched his heart out tonight. He gave us everything he had. A tremendous effort by him.”
While Verlander shut down the Mariners for six innings, allowing just one run, Miranda was keeping the Astros off the hit column if not the run column. At times, it looked like he was throwing a Little League no-hitter as he walked six, allowed a run and struck out five while throwing 112 pitches in six innings.
Miranda cruised through the first two innings, then tweaked his ankle when he landed awkwardly while following through on a pitch to Carlos Beltran, who led off the third.
Miranda stayed in the game after getting checked out, but the left-hander suddenly quit throwing strikes, walking Beltran and two of the next three hitters to load the bases with one out. Alex Bregman then hit a sacrifice fly to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.
“I slipped and rolled my ankle a little,” Miranda said through an interpreter. “I lost my concentration and my rhythm but I was able to get it back.”
But despite allowing a walk in each of the next three innings, Miranda did not allow another run. Pagan was not as fortunate. After James Pazos gave up a one-out walk, Pagan came in to face Maybin. After working a full count, Maybin unloaded with a no-doubt homer to left field.
Verlander, like Miranda, was not real efficient, needing 103 pitches to get through six innings. But the only run he allowed was a homer to Kyle Seager leading off the bottom of the fourth inning,
It was performances like this that had Mariners fans dreaming that Verlander would have been pitching for the Mariners and not against them.
With the Mariners in the wild-card race despite their starting rotation in shambles due to injuries, it was hard not to imagine what kind of a boost Verlander, the former MVP and Cy Young winner, could give them in their quest to make the postseason for the first time since 2001.
But alas it was the rich getting richer, with the Astros, runaway leaders of the American League West, making a deal for Verlander.
“You know he is going to be tough, and you’re not going to get a lot of chances,” Seager said. “And when you do, you’ve got to take advantage of them.”
The Mariners’ best chance came in the sixth inning when Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz led off with back-to-back singles, but Seager hit into a double play and Mitch Haniger then struck out.
Servais said the Mariners had a lot of at-bats, but rued that his team could not come up with a big hit. And he was very encouraged by what he saw from Miranda in his six innings.
After pitching at least seven innings in his final three starts of June, Miranda had averaged just over five innings per start in July and August, a span covering 10 starts. Only once in that time did he make it through six innings, pitching exactly six in a no-decision against the Mets in late July.
Just as important Tuesday was that he did not allow a homer after coming into the game having allowed 35, tied for the most in the majors. In his previous start, he allowed four to Baltimore in 41/3 innings.
“I was focused and attacked the hitters,” Miranda said.
But while Miranda can walk away from the game feeling good, it was Verlander who left with the win.
Still, Servais went home upbeat.
“I will take my chances with this club if we compete like that every night,” he said.
|Wild thingsAL wild-card standings:Team