For a few brief moments Tuesday, the Mariners had the 11,345 patrons at Safeco Field elieving a comeback was possible in a game in which they were overmatched from the start. Instead, a Jonathan Villar RBI single with two outs in the ninth against Yoervis Medina lifted the Astros to a 2-1 victory and dispatched Seattle (79-65) from the second American League wild card position.
The loss was the third for Seattle in its last 11 games.
“The way we lost tonight was not ideal,” Logan Morrison said. “But it is what it is, one game. We still control our own destiny. So I think if we continue to take care of business, win series, we’ll be fine.”
It was Morrison’s hit with one out in the eighth inning that woke up the smallest Safeco Field crowd since late April. The first baseman clobbered a Collin McHugh offering for his seventh home run and first since Aug. 6.
“I wasn’t thinking, ‘Try to hit a homer,’ I was thinking ‘Try to get the barrel to it and hit it hard somewhere,’” Morrison said. He extended his hitting streak against the Astros to 13 games.
McHugh (9-9, 2.79 ERA) continued a strong second half that hasn’t seen him suffer a loss since July 27 against Miami. The 27-year-old rookie entered Tuesday leading all Astros pitchers in ERA, and became the first since Brett Myers in 2010 to win five decisions in a row.
In his last outing, McHugh pitched Houston to a 4-1 win over the AL West-leading Angels with one run on four hits in 7.1 innings. He was better against the Mariners.
Through 7.1 innings, McHugh allowed two baserunners, one via infield single and the other on an error by Jose Altuve, while holding the Mariners scoreless for his second consecutive outing at Safeco Field. Morrison’s solo home run off the second-deck façade in right field changed that. It was only the second home run off McHugh since July.
“He’s been tough on a lot of people lately,” manager Lloyd McClendon said of McHugh. “He’s been throwing the ball extremely well and today was no different. I thought he had a pretty darn good cutter in on left-handers, breaking ball was sharp, threw some decent changeups . . . One of the better-pitched games of the year.”
In the fourth inning, Houston opened a 1-0 lead on a two-out RBI double by rookie Jon Singleton who entered the game hitting .176. His hard drive off Seattle starter Roenis Elias to right field missed clearing the wall by an inch, hitting off the top of the padding.
Elias (10-12, 3.81 ERA) continued to show that he isn’t slowing down despite an increasing innings total that is uncharted territory for the 25-year-old rookie. Prior to this season, the high-water mark for Elias was 148.2 in High-A in 2012. After pitching six innings of one-run baseball on six hits and a walk against the Astros, Elias has completed 165.2 innings including his one start at Class AAA in mid-August.
Since the All-Star break, Elias has pitched nine consecutive starts with two runs or fewer for a 2.08 ERA in 47.2 innings. McClendon was similarly pleased with this outing.
“He was good,” McClendon said. “Made one mistake, (the) fastball to Singleton, (he) got it up, but other than that, he threw the ball pretty good.”
It has been a tale of two McHughs for Seattle against the young Astros starter. In Houston, the M’s have had plenty of success with 11 runs in 10 innings over two games. The last time the Mariners faced McHugh at Safeco Field was deep in a losing streak that reached eight games. McHugh allowed three hits in 6.2 scoreless innings and struck out what remains a career-high 12 April 22.
Brad Miller, who went 0-for-3 with two broken-bat ground outs to cool off a hot streak, believes that trend is simply a variance in command from start to start.
“The two starts he’s had here, he’s held us pretty much in check,” Miller said. “He’s just throwing that hard little cutter. I know he blew me up a couple of times and he spots it well.”
Mariners OF Dustin Ackley (ankle) missed his third consecutive game and remains day-to-day. An MRI showed bone spurs in Ackley’s ankle . . . Reliever Carson Smith tossed a career-high two innings and retired all six hitters he faced with three strikeouts . . . Austin Jackson had the Mariners’ other hit to extend his home hitting streak to 10 games.