While it was “Turn Back the Clock Night” at Safeco Field Saturday, the product witnessed by 21,585 resembled 2013 more than 1979. That was especially the case for Brandon Maurer and the Mariners’ offense after a 9-4 loss to Houston in the third of a four-game series.
For the fourth time in six outings Maurer (1-3, 6.99 ERA) failed to get out of the fifth inning. It was Maurer’s first game in 10 days and he showed rust early, walking the first hitter, then giving up a two-run homer to George Springer.
Springer, the Astros’ 24-year-old rookie rated by Baseball America as the No. 18 overall prospect in baseball, had his first career multi-homer game when he added a second two-run homer in the fifth inning. Springer was 2-for-5 with five RBI after missing two games with a hip flexor problem.
“That’s pretty impressive,” Houston manager Bo Porter said of his right fielder’s night. “To sit out for a couple of games and then first pitch you see, hit it out of the ballpark the opposite way.”
Maurer settled down to retire 11 consecutive hitters before yielding a single to Matt Dominguez in the fourth inning.
But furthering his inconsistent storyline, Maurer was knocked around in the fifth for four more runs while recording one out. Maurer pitched 4.1 innings and allowed six runs on six hits. He walked one and struck out one. He needed a good outing (maybe a few) to show reason to stay in the rotation with James Paxton and Taijuan Walker nearing a return.
Instead, he continued to show an inability to mix his pitches the second and third time through the lineup. Since debuting last season, Maurer is 6-11 with a 6.46 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon watched as Maurer lost control of the game quickly. When he finally took him out, it was too late.
“It’s happened a few times, where he’s on a run, and one thing or another goes wrong, and he just doesn’t seem to get it back together,” McClendon said of his starter. “It’s tough when you’re facing a lineup for the second or third time and it’s the third or fourth inning. That’s not a recipe for success and that’s what’s happening.”
Maurer’s immediate future, which has him in line to start Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels, is to be determined. Asked after the game Saturday, McClendon wouldn’t comment:
“I’m just looking at (Sunday’s) game right now.”
Alternatively, the Seattle offense once again had nothing for Brett Oberholtzer. Oberholtzer faced the Mariners (24-24) once previously, pitching a complete-game shutout on four hits in September. However, he came into Saturday’s start having far less success in 2014 with an 0-6 record and 5.68 ERA. It made little difference.
The Mariners put two across in the first to tie the score at . With the bases loaded and one out, Kyle Seager hit a ground ball to first and Astros’ first baseman Marc Krauss threw errantly to second, which allowed both Stefen Romero and Robinson Cano to score. Cano extended his on-base streak to 31 games by going 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
But after the good start, the M’s offense was negated by Oberholtzer, who retired 14 of 15 hitters through five innings. In the sixth, Seattle scored when Saunders delivered an RBI groundout with the bases loaded. Oberholtzer (1-6, 5.32 ERA) allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits and one walk over six innings. He struck out eight and snapped a personal 10-game losing streak.
“I thought we had opportunities, I thought we had good at-bats, but you make anybody good when you’re down 9-2,” McClendon said.
Houston (18-32) scored five in the fifth and two more off Tom Wilhelmsen in the sixth inning. Maurer allowed RBIs to Altuve and Jonathan Villar after giving up back-to-back hits to Chris Carter and Alex Presley. Springer’s second homer made it 6-2 and ended Maurer’s night. Wilhelmsen lost a 13.2 scoreless inning streak as he struggled with his command. He yielded three runs on two hits and four walks.
Seager continued a strong series with a 2-for-4 night with a triple, his team-leading 29th RBI and a run scored.
In a quiet clubhouse after the game, Cano spoke for his teammates offering the common refrain of putting the game behind and looking ahead to the next.
“It’s a long season, the last thing you can do is hang your head and think about this one,” Cano said. “You’ve got to get ready for tomorrow.”
Having Hisashi Iwakuma ready to take the ball surely helps.
James Jones extended his hitting streak to 14 games with an infield single in the second inning . . . RHP Walker (shoulder impingement) will begin a minor-league rehab assignment in AAA Tacoma Wednesday. He is expected to throw between 70-75 pitches depending on how he fares . . . LHP Paxton (lat strain) pitched three innings in Tacoma Saturday. He gave up four hits and three runs (two earned) while walking two and striking out five on 62 pitches . . . SS Brad Miller was out of the starting lineup for the third straight game with utility infielder Willie Bloomquist getting his second consecutive start versus a left-handed pitcher.