SEATTLE – Like his outings, Brandon Maurer’s time in the Mariners’ rotation is getting shorter and shorter.
The beleaguered 23-year-old right-hander couldn’t get out of the fifth inning Saturday, allowing six runs in another sluggish, stunted start. Houston rookie George Springer homered twice off Maurer, leading the Astros to a 9-4 victory before 21,585 at Safeco Field.
Maurer (1-3) has pitched five innings or less in five of his six starts for the Mariners (24-24). With left-hander James Paxton making his first rehab start for Class AA Tacoma on Saturday, Maurer’s tenure with the big-league club appears to be running short, too.
Paxton will likely need at least two more minor league starts before returning to the Seattle rotation, but manager Lloyd McClendon made it clear he wanted to see improved results from Maurer.
“He needs to pitch well,” McClendon said before the game.
For a while, things were rolling along well enough for Maurer. Though it took him just six pitches to dig the M’s into a two-run hole, he bounced back to retire 11 in a row after Springer’s first home run gave the Astros a 2-0 lead.
The Mariners had tied the score 2-2 in the bottom of the first against Astros lefty Brett Oberholtzer (1-6), and Maurer looked confident and in control for the next three innings.
Things unraveled in a hurry in the fifth. Chris Carter led off the inning with a two-strike double. Alex Presley followed with a single. Robinson Cano then bobbled what appeared to be a sure 4-6-3 double play; Cano salvaged the play by tagging a sliding Presley out at second. Carter scored on the play to give the Astros a 3-2 lead.
Jose Altuve continued his torrid hitting against the Mariners, hitting a single to right field to drive in Jonathan Villar from first base on a hit-and-run. That made it 4-2.
Springer crushed his second home run, another two-run shot, this to deep left, to end Maurer’s night. Tom Wilhelmsen came in, walking two and allowing a Marc Krauss bloop single to score another run.
In all, the Astros sent 10 batters to the plate in the fifth, scoring five runs on five hits and two walks.
They added two more runs in the sixth off Wilhelmsen, who walked four in 12/3 innings.
Oberholtzer picked up his first win of the season for the Astros, allowing three runs (two earned) while striking out eight.
Kyle Seager was credited with a bases-loaded RBI in the first when he grounded to Krauss at first base. Krauss’ throw to second skipped into left field, allowing Stefen Romero and Cano to score.
The Mariners, trailing 9-2, loaded the bases again off Oberholtzer in the sixth but could only muster one run, on a Michael Saunders’ fielder’s choice.
Seager added a triple and scored on a John Buck groundout in the eighth inning.
Cano, who entered the day tied for the A.L. lead with a .326 batting average, had two hits. He has reached base in 31 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the majors.
Mariners rookie leadoff hitter James Jones extended his hitting streak to 14 games with an infield single in the second.
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