HOUSTON — Seattle manager Eric Wedge hoped his team had turned a corner offensively after hitting three home runs in a win over the Astros in the series opener.
Unfortunately, the Mariners’ hitting woes returned in a 3-2 loss to Houston on Tuesday night.
Bud Norris rebounded from a tough start last time out, Marwin Gonzalez homered and the Astros snapped a three-game losing skid with the victory.
“The at-bats are getting better — and we did have a lot of long outs, too — but, we still have to do better than that,” Wedge said. “I do think we have guys heading in the right direction; that is obvious by the quality of the at-bats. Having said that, it’s all about winning and losing, and we have to do a better job of finding ways to win ballgames.”
The game was tied at 1 when Gonzalez launched his homer about 10 rows into the stands in right field to start Houston’s third. Gonzalez, who bats ninth, hit just four home runs in 80 games last season and has three in 16 this year.
Houston got an insurance run when Hisashi Iwakuma (2-1) hit Justin Maxwell with a pitch with the bases loaded later in that inning. Maxwell was placed on the disabled list after the game with a broken left hand.
Norris (3-2) allowed a season-high eight hits in five innings, but was much better than last time out, when he yielded six runs in 2-3 innings.
Houston closer Jose Veras pitched a perfect ninth for his second save in three opportunities.
Iwakuma struck out a season-high 11, but the six hits he gave up were also the most he’s allowed this year. It’s his first loss since September 14, and breaks a career-best five game winning streak.
He’s been dealing with a blister that has limited how much he throws between starts.
“I am still able to pitch every five days, that is the good thing,” he said through a translator. “Right now, it is just being able to monitor and manage the situation … (the blister) is a new situation for me, so I was having a hard time commanding my pitches to both sides of the plate.”
Kendrys Morales extended his hitting streak to six games when he homered for the second consecutive game with a solo shot to center field in the eighth to cut the lead to 3-2.
Houston had retired eight in a row, including six straight by Travis Blackley when the homer by Morales chased him with no outs in the eighth. Hector Ambriz sat down the next three batters, with two strikeouts, to end the inning.
Seattle won the opener of this series 7-1 behind Felix Hernandez’s 100th career win and the three homers. But they couldn’t string together many hits in this one and have failed to win consecutive games since the first two games of the season.
“I feel like the last couple of games, we have swung the bats pretty well,” Seattle’s Justin Smoak said. “It’s just one of those things, though, where they just didn’t fall for us in this game. We have to just keep doing some of the things we have been doing to get out of this and keep going. We had guys on, we’re getting on base and we’re hitting the balls hard. Things just did not go our way tonight.”
The Mariners are 6 for 37 with runners in scoring position in their last five games.
Jason Castro walked with two outs in the first before a single by Chris Carter to left fielder Raul Ibanez. An error by Ibanez on the play allowed Castro to score to put Houston up 1-0.
Dustin Ackley singled with one out in the second before scoring on a two-out double by Endy Chavez to tie it at 1-all. Chavez got caught in a rundown trying to stretch the hit to end the inning.
Gonzalez led off Houston’s third with his home run to put Houston up 2-1. Jose Altuve and Fernando Martinez followed with back-to-back singles. They both advanced on the throw from center fielder Chavez on the hit by Martinez.
Iwakuma intentionally walked Carlos Pena with two outs to load the bases and plunked Maxwell on the left hand to send home another run and push the lead to 3-1.
Iwakuma limited the damage by retiring Rick Ankiel to end the inning.
The series wraps up on Wednesday when Seattle’s Joe Saunders opposes Lucas Harrell. … Seattle’s Kyle Seager extended his career-long hitting streak to 12 games. … Seattle placed OF Franklin Gutierrez on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring. Gutierrez was injured on Monday night trying to make a diving catch in the fourth inning against the Astros. He has struggled with injuries in his career, and this is the fifth time he’s been on the disabled list since the beginning of the 2011 season. The Mariners recalled Carlos Peguero from Triple-A Tacoma to take his spot on the roster. … Montero’s home run on Monday night traveled 441 feet, which is the longest home run hit in Houston this season and the second-longest of his career.