A third consecutive start by Felix Hernandez came to naught, the Astros putting the first four batters of the 11th inning on base against reliever Charlie Furbush, and oozed across the winner in a 5-4 triumph over the Mariners Friday night in Houston.
Kyle Seager appeared to have another decisive hit, a bases-loaded double in the sixth inning, to put Seattle up 4-3, but the offense died thereafter. The Astros tied it in the eighth against Yoervis Medina on an infield chopper.
To open the 11th, Furbush replaced Danny Farquhar and gave up a single to center by Jose Altuve. Dexter Fowler turned his sacrifice bunt attempt into an infield single, then backup catcher Carlos Corporan tried another sac bunt attempt, but loaded the bases when Furbush fielded the ball and went to third too late to get the lead runner.
Rookie George Springer, who struck out four times in the game, hit another high chopper, this one backing up Seager at third and going over his head, scoring Altuve to beat Seattle for the third time in four games this season.
The walkoff defeat was the Mariners’ 53rd since 2010, a category in which they lead the majors by a mile. The walk-off loss was the first for Furbush since May 20, when he yielded a walk-off single to Yan Gomes of Cleveland.
Mistakes filled the Mariners ledger, from two errors by center fielder Abraham Almonte to Medina’s fielding mishap that allowed the tying run, to Mike Zunino getting picked off first.
“We got a lot of guys can’t get out of their own way,” said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. He claimed Almonte’s whiff of a catchable ball that produced an unearned run behind Hernandez in the third “was one step that kinda messed him up a little. Center field here is tough to play.”
McClendon said he pulled Hernandez after five innings and 89 pitches because he was tired from illness.
“He was under the weather a little,” he said. “I didn’t know what we’d get out of him. He was sick yesterday and very weak today. He did a good job keeping us in the ballgame.”
Almonte’s first error in the third allowed an unearned run, and Marc Krauss singled in another for a 2-0 Houston lead. The Mariners tied it in the fifth when Zunino made a towering drive out of a hanging curve from starter Brad Peacock, the homer scoring Seager, who singled.
Houston went up 3-2 in the fifth when Hernandez hit Castro, who advanced to second on an infield out and scored on a Krauss single. Hernandez left after giving up two earned runs, five hits, three walks and a hit batter. He struck out six.
In the sixth, Saunders, hitting leadoff again, bunted his way aboard and went to second on a ground out. After Robinson Cano walked, Corey Hart singled just over the shortstop’s glove to load the bases. Seager doubled off the right field wall, barely missing a grand slam as well as an out, as Springer misplayed the ball and fell into the wall. But Smoak struck out and Dustin Ackley grounded out to kill a potential big inning.
After one out in the eighth, Medina walked Alex Presley. Matt Dominguez singled Presley to third. Jonathan Villar hit a high chopper that Medina could have caught and tried for a play at the plate. He let it drop, then threw to first, but the game was tied at 4.
The Mariners have won five of their past seven, but the two losses were Hernandez starts.
Hisashi Iwakuma will make his season debut in a 1:10 p.m. PT start Saturday in the series’ second game. McClendon said a reliever will be sent down to make room on the roster for Iwakuma’s return from the disabled list . . . Still on the DL are starters James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Blake Beavan . . . Brandon Maurer will start Sunday. After flying to Oakland Monday, the Mariners send Chris Young to open a three-game series against the A’s, followed by Roenis Elias Tuesday. A doubleheader Wednesday will have Hernandez and Erasmo Ramirez, who is currently at AAA Tacoma . . Saunders again batted leadoff, but moved to right field while Almonte returned to center field, where he made two errors. After hitting leadoff for 23 games, he batted ninth. He was o-for-3 with a walk.