With Oakland losing 3-0 to Philadelphia and Kansas City dropping a 3-2 decision to Detroit, the Mariners had an opportunity Saturday to tie the Athletics for the American League’s first wild card spot and leap over the Royals for the second. Instead, starter Chris Young couldn’t avoid grooving pitches into the sweet spots of Houston bats, allowing four home runs within 45 futile pitches.
Seattle’s 10-1 face plant at Minute Maid Park certainly didn’t dash its playoff chances as the Mariners (83-71) remain only a game behind the A’s (84-70) and a half game back of the Royals (83-70). But they squandered a major opportunity with Young’s ineffective effort and the offense’s inability to cash when opportunities presented.
Such was the case in the fourth inning when, trailing 5-1, the Mariners loaded the bases with no outs against Houston starter Dallas Keuchel. But Chris Taylor whiffed and Austin Jackson hit into a 1-2-3 double play.
Matt Dominguez and Carlos Corporan then knocked Young out of the game with back-to-back home runs that gave Houston a 7-1 lead. The Mariners couldn’t recover, falling to 3-3 on the final road trip of the season. The Mariners also had their six-game win streak in Houston snapped.
Young (12-9, 3.65) had trouble from the get-go. After allowing a leadoff single to Robbie Grossman, he gave up a two-run bomb to Chris Carter. After Dexter Fowler doubled, Alex Presley unloaded a two-run homer to right, putting Young in a 4-0 hole.
“They decided it real early,” said manager Lloyd McClendon of Houston’s first-inning homer barrage. “Then we had one shot (in the fourth inning), and couldn’t capitalize. That’s just the way it goes.”
Young allowed his fifth earned run in the second when Jose Altuve broke an 0-for-7 slide by driving in Gregorio Petit with a single, Altuve’s 215th hit of the season.
Robinson Cano got a run back for the Mariners in the third when he singled to right, driving in Jackson, who had walked. But after the Mariners wasted their best chance in the fourth and Dominguez and Corporan homered, McClendon yanked Young, who allowed four home runs for only the third time in his career.
“His location wasn’t good,” McClendon said. “It was just one of those days.”
Young has dropped three of his past four starts and has not gone beyond six innings since July 26 vs. Baltimore.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned,” said McClendon. “But we’re down the stretch. What can you do?”
Erasmo Ramirez threw three innings of scoreless relief, but in the seventh, after allowing singles to Presley and Fowler, he hung an 0-and-2 mistake to Jake Marisnick, who launched it deep over the wall in left.
The Mariners, who went 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded six, never threatened Keuchel except for the fourth inning. Keuchel worked eight innings, allowed one earned run, fanned eight and walked one.
The five home runs allowed by Seattle were one shy of the season high of six, yielded to Washington Aug. 29 . . . Although Dustin Ackley had a pair of home runs in Friday’s 10-5 win over the Astros, McClendon opted to sit Ackley as a precaution. Ackley has been ailing with a sore left ankle . . . Corey Hart, who drew the nod at DH, had Seattle’s only multi-hit game with a pair of singles.
The three-game series concludes Sunday before moving on to Toronto for a four-game series. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (14-8, 3.42) will pitch opposite RHP Collin McHugh (10-9, 2.66). McHugh is 2-2 against the Mariners this season, beating them 3-1 in his most recent outing Sept. 15.