Returning home from a six-game losing skid, the Seattle Mariners thought they had the perfect antidote. They had their ace, Felix Hernandez, going against the worst offense in the American League. The Houston Astros entered with a team batting average of .197. No other team in the AL had an average under .230, including the Mariners.
Unfortunately for Seattle, the game was a rout — the wrong way. Behind a four-run sixth inning, Houston clubbed Hernandez into his worst outing this season, a 7-2 loss, the Mariners’ seventh consecutive.
Houston broke through in the fifth inning when Matt Dominguez hit a two-run home run, scoring Alex Presley, who had singled and advanced to second when centerfielder Abraham Almonte misplayed the ball.
The Mariners answered in the bottom half when Kyle Seager singled and Mike Zunino doubled to put runners on second and third. After Brad Miller struck out, Almonte hit a double down the right field line to tie the game at 2.
In the sixth inning, the Mariners kicked away another win and hand Hernandez his first loss.
After Jose Altuve hit a leadoff double, Dexter Fowler attempted to sacrifice him to third. Zunino pounced on the bunt and threw to third without hesitation. The throw was on target to Seager and had Altuve beat, but Seager could not make the catch. Both runners were safe. Jason Castro followed with a sacrifice fly.
After Hernandez struck out rookie George Springer, three consecutive hits yielded three more runs and Houston had a 6-2 lead.
Giving extra outs has been a problem for the Mariners during their losing streak. They couldn’t overcome it Monday even with Hernandez on the mound. Hernandez went seven innings, yielding six runs (two earned) on seven hits. He walked one and struck out four.
Seattle (7-12) struggled against Houston starter Dallas Keuchel. Dustin Ackley, moved into the second spot in the batting order by McClendon, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. They finished with seven hits and 13 strikeouts. With two runs Monday, the team has scored two or fewer runs nine times in 19 games.
Keuchel worked six innings, yielding six hits, two runs and one walk while striking out seven.
A moment that summarized Seattle’s night came in the bottom of the seventh inning. Zunino launched a Chad Qualls offering into the back row of the upper deck stands in left field, one of the longest balls ever hit at Safeco, yet was foul by perhaps two feet. After a review confirmed the call, Zunino struck out on the next pitch.
Starter Hisashi Iwakuma will make his first rehabilitation start Tuesday when he pitches for AAA Tacoma . . . Manager Lloyd McClendon said LHP James Paxton is on schedule with the original six- to eight-week timetable to return from the back muscle strain he suffered April 8 . . . Taijuan Walker will see a doctor Wednesday and if everything appears fine, will play catch soon. McClendon said Walker’s sore shoulder feels “much better.”