HOUSTON – It was the type of game that ends winning streaks – no matter their length.
The Mariners weren’t good in any facet of the game, committed costly mistakes, which seemed to ensure defeat as their brief three-game win streak came to an end on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.
And yet they had many chances to still win, which made the loss that much more frustrating.
With the base loaded and no outs, outfielder George Springer hit a high chopper that bounced just out the reach of third baseman Kyle Seager to score Jose Altuve from third base to give Houston a 5-4 win in the bottom of the 11th inning.
It was the fourth walk-off loss the Mariners have endured this season. They’ve dropped three of four games against the Astros, who still have the worst record in the American League at 10-19.
Reliever Charlie Furbush gave up a leadoff single to Altuve. The Astros then put down back-to-back bunts that didn’t result in any outs.
Furbush had no chance to field Dexter Fowler’s perfect bunt down the first-base line. He did field Carlos Corporan’s bunt and fired to third to try and get Altuve. The throw was too late, setting up Springer’s heroics.
“That was the play,” Furbush said. “He just beat the throw.”
And while Furbush (0-3) took the loss, there was failure in many aspects, including starting pitching, defense and situational hitting. If the Mariners were slightly better in any one of the three, the outcome may have been different.
When asked about the struggles of a particular player, manager Lloyd McClendon responded with a summation of the collective group:
“We had a lot of guys that can’t get out of their way.”
The Mariners took a lead into the eighth inning.
Kyle Seager put them up 4-3 in the sixth inning with a bases-loaded, two-run double to right-center. The ball was just inches from being a grand slam and was also just inches away from being caught by a leaping Springer. The Mariners probably should have had more, but Justin Smoak struck out with runners on second and third and Dustin Ackley grounded out to end the inning.
“He didn’t have a good night,” McClendon said of Smoak’s at-bat. “I would have liked to see him put that ball in play.”
Reliever Yoervis Medina didn’t do his job either. He was brought in to hold the lead in the eighth, but he issued a one-out walk to Alex Presley, which proved costly. Matt Dominguez followed with a short single to left with Presley running on the pitch and advancing to third. Jonathan Villar then hit a swinging bunt that went about 22 feet into the infield, but it was far enough and slow enough for Presley to scamper home with the tying run and eventually send the game into extra innings.
On a night when it would seemed like starter Felix Hernandez would dominate, the Mariners got an ordinary performance from their ace. But there were reasons. Hernandez picked up the flu bug on Thursday in New York, leaving him tired and drained.
“He didn’t have much strength going out there,” McClendon said. “He battled out there and gave us five innings. I didn’t know what we would get out of him.”
The five innings were Hernandez’s shortest outing of the season. He gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits, with three walk and six strikeouts. He was done after he started being bothered by cramps.