Maybe it’s time to stop referring to the Houston Astros as the worst team in the majors and point the finger instead at the team they out-scored 38-27 and out-hit 73-51 over six games this season. The Mariners ended a gruesome 1-5 road trip through Texas and Houston Wednesday with a 10-3 loss at Minute Maid Park and are now just percentage points out of last place in the AL West.
Seattle has given Houston (7-15) four of its wins. The Astros hit three home runs off Joe Saunders, who was awful, and Blake Beavan, and blew the game open with a five-run sixth inning. The Astros ultimately cruised to a 10-1 lead before the Mariners tallied two runs in the ninth.
Seattle (8-15) has lost two in a row and seven of nine. Even if the Mariners win their six remaining games in April, they will finish the month with a losing record.
After the game, manager Eric Wedge held a team meeting behind closed doors but wouldn’t tell reporters what was said.
“It’s been a bad road trip, and we are not off to the start we’d like, for sure,” Wedge said. “But we have the players in there to be a good team, and that is what bothers me more than anything. We just have to peck away and get this thing turned around.”
Chris Carter homered off Saunders on a full count in the second inning, former Mariner Ronny Cedeno (2009) blasted a three-run shot off Saunders in the fourth, and Brandon Laird delivered a run-scoring double in the fifth, giving the Astros a 5-0 lead.
The Mariners got a run back in the sixth when Endy Chavez and Kyle Seager reached on singles. Kendrys Morales then hit into a double play, but Chavez scored, making it 5-1. With his single, Seager extended his career-best hitting streak to 13 games.
Saunders couldn’t make it through the sixth. He opened by hitting catcher Carlos Corporan with a pitch, gave up a double to Cedeno and a single to Matt Dominguez that scored two.
Trailing 7-1, manager Eric Wedge had seen enough and yanked Saunders, who departed having allowed five earned runs on 11 hits. Saunders’ ERA jumped to 5.33.
Beavan immediately gave up a single to Brandon Barnes and then Laird bashed a three-run homer to make it 10-1.
The Mariners had an opportunity to pick up a couple of runs in the eighth when they placed runners at second and third with two outs. But Michael Morse struck out.
Seattle’s two meaningless runs in the ninth came on Justin Smoak’s first home run of the season, and on an RBI single by Robert Andino, the club’s new starting shortstop, which plated Dustin Ackley, who had a 3-for-4 day, lifting his average to .230.
The tattered Mariners return to Safeco Field Thursday night for the first of four against the Los Angeles Angels. Brandon Maurer (1-3, 7.45), who has a 2.84 ERA in his last two starts, will oppose RHP Garrett Richards (1-0, 2.55), who is filling in for the injured Jered Weaver.
Following the Angels, the Mariners will host the Baltimore Orioles in a three-game set.
NOTES: Eric Wedge made a lineup change Wednesday, replacing Brendan Ryan as the club’s starting shortstop with Robert Andino. Although Ryan has played well enough defensively, he has just one hit in his last 25 at-bats, his average falling to .143 . . . The Mariners said Wednesday that OF Michael Saunders will likely go out on a minor league rehab stint with AAA Tacoma next weekend. Saunders, who sprained his right shoulder April 11, is eligible to come off the disabled list Friday.