A promising series ended on a down note as the Mariners managed only four hits and lost 6-2 (box score) to the AL West-leading Astros. Seattle took two of three games in the series, which is a starting point for an underachieving team that needs to make its move soon.
SS Brad Miller had a costly error in the fifth inning, but his real damage came in the bottom of the first. The Mariners had a chance to take control when rookie Houston starter Vince Velasquez was having all sorts of problems and looked like a prize fighter on the ropes, but Miller couldn’t come through. His bases-loaded strikeout ended the inning with the score tied 1-1.
LHP J.A. Happ (3-4) extended his winless streak to eight games while suffering his third consecutive loss, but this one wasn’t entirely his fault. Happ made it through five innings allowing two earned runs, before the Seattle bullpen turned a tight game into a blowout. RHP Tom Wilhelmsen and LHP Vidal Nuno each served up homers. Wilhelmsen has given up five hits and five runs over his past three appearances.
Patience was the key to Seattle’s early success, but the Mariners could do next to nothing against the Houston bullpen. The Mariners scored in the first inning against a shaky Velasquez, who couldn’t get out of the fourth inning, but they had one hit the rest of the way. At one point, the Houston bullpen retired 12 consecutive batters before pinch hitter Dustin Ackley provided a two-out single in the ninth. 1B Logan Morrison made things happen at the top of the order. After DH Nelson Cruz’s RBI single in the first, Seattle went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.
The Mariners drew 11 walks against Houston’s starting pitching during the series. Comparatively, Astros hitters walked only twice against Seattle starters and needed 17 innings and 65 plate appearances before drawing their first free pass against a starting pitcher . . . Reliever Carson Smith may or may not be the Mariners’ long-term closer, but he’s done his part to stay in that role. Smith earned saves in three of the past four games heading into Sunday, needing only 29 pitches over 2.2 innings to do it. He came on in Saturday night’s eighth inning and retired the final four batters on just 13 pitches . . . RHP Hisashi Iwakuma came out of his 3.2-inning rehab start at Class A Everettt and is now scheduled to take the mound for Tacoma Thursday. Manager Lloyd McClendon said before Sunday’s game that Iwakuma (strained lat muscle) will likely need at least three rehab starts before the Mariners consider activating him from the disabled list. LHPs Roenis Elias and Mike Montgomery have pitched well enough that the Mariners’ rotation hasn’t missed Iwakuma. … CF Austin Jackson and C Mike Zunino had rest days Sunday and weren’t in the Mariners’ lineup. That left Seattle with No. 8 and 9 hitters that were a combined 1 for 24 going into the game.
The King’s Court will be out on a Royals night at Safeco Field. RHP Felix Hernandez (10-3, 3.08 ERA) is scheduled to face the Kansas City Royals for the first time since September 2013. Royals scheduled starter Joe Blanton (1-0, 1.80 ERA) recently earned his first win in nearly two years, having spent most of this season at Triple-A or in mop-up relief duty. The last time Blanton spent a season as a full-time starter, in 2013, the Mariners went 2-0 against him while hitting .290.