HOUSTON – With their two best hitters out of the lineup due to injury, their two top utility players unavailable, a rookie starting pitcher operating under shortened pitch limit and an overworked bullpen operating in the 10th of 13 consecutive games out of the All-Star break, the Mariners, being held together by duct tape and guile, wouldn’t surrender to expected defeat against a team they rarely beat.
Even after starter George Kirby gave up two runs in the first inning and Houston starter Jake Odorizzi held them scoreless for seven innings, the Mariners wouldn’t submit.
But after failing to push across the automatic runner in the top of the 10th inning, the loss that seemed so likely from the start finally came in the bottom of the inning when Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez bounced a shift-beating single through the left side of the infield off left Brennan Bernardino to score Mauricio Dubon for a 3-2 walk-off win.
“Another grinder here in this place,” manager Scott Servais said. “Our guys, we play with a lot of grit I guess is the best way to talk about it. We don’t quit. No matter who we’re playing or what the situation is, which is a great sign.”
That Servais was forced to go to Bernardino, a 30-year-old rookie making his MLB debut in the 10th inning with the top of the Astros orders coming to the plate, speaks to the Mariners roster and bullpen situation. He had to turn to the lefty reliever, who had spent the last three seasons pitching in Mexico and was signed to a minor league contract a month ago.
“That’s a tough place and situation to make your MLB debut,” Servais said.
While the Mariners are elated to leave Minute Maid Park, where they are now 7-30 over the last four seasons, and wrap up the season series with the Astros having lost six of their last seven games against them to finish 7-12, it doesn’t get much easier with three games at Yankee Stadium to end the road trip.
“Both teams were tired today,” Servais said. “You could see it. You’ve got to keep grinding and you’ve got to keep going. We are in that stretch of 13 consecutive games and we’ve got three more to go before an off day.”
Facing a lineup without Julio Rodriguez, who was placed on the injured list before the game, and Ty France, who out with a sore wrist, Odorizzi tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing just two singles to Adam Frazier, with a walk and eight strikeouts.
The Mariners finally broke through in the eighth inning against the Astros normally lockdown bullpen.
Frazier worked a two-out walk against hard-throwing set-up man Ryne Stanek to bring Jesse Winker to the plate.
Having struggled to catch up on fastballs up in the zone early in the game and much of the season, Winker went to the plate looking for a fastball on the first pitch. He got a 96-mph heater in the middle of the plate and hammered it into the seats in deep right field.
“Huge hit from Wink,” Servais said. “You are just hoping to get a guy on and someone pop one over the fence.”
It was Winker’s 10th homer of the season and first since July 13.
Working on a pitch limit of around 80 pitches, rookie starter George Kirby gave the Mariners four innings, allowing two runs on three hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.
All of the damage came in a first inning where Kirby struggled to establish his command. His first pitch of the game a 96-mph fastball rode up and in on Jose Altuve, striking him in the shoulder. His second pitch of the game, another fastball, did the same thing to Yuli Gurriel, who was able to get out of the way.
The Astros took advantage as Gurriel singled to put runners on first and third. Kirby came back to strike out Yordan Alvarez and Alex Bregman, but couldn’t get out of the inning unscathed.
The Astros executed a perfect double steal with Gurriel taking off for second and Altuve breaking for home the moment Cal Raleigh fired to second.
Kyle Tucker singled to left to score Gurriel.
By the time Kirby finished the first inning, he’d thrown 31 pitches. But he was able to establish some command of his pitches in the second inning. He allowed just one base runner over the next three innings.
“It comes to just executing,” Kirby said. “I was able to do that the last three innings and not get into the bullpen too early.”
He would’ve preferred to stay in the game. But he understands the Mariners reasoning for his shortened outings.
“It’s tough, but at the end of the day, they’re trying to look out for me and trying to go as long as I can in this game,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to get hurt or anything. So I totally understand, but it’s tough once those competitive juices are flowing. It’s just tough to shake Skip’s hand now after the fourth inning.”
The relievers available out of the bullpen were outstanding in relief of Kirby. Penn Murfee worked two scoreless frames, allowing a hit while Matt Brash, Paul Sewald and Paul Sewald each worked scoreless innings to give Seattle a chance.
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