Arrow-right Camera
Subscribe now

Listless Mariners fall to Astros as playoff hopes take a hit

By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The booing started with the Astros, specifically Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez, because, well, that’s what happens to them in every MLB stadium since the pitch-stealing scandal went public in 2019.

In games at T-Mobile Park, the booing for that trio of players, and sometimes Kyle Tucker and other players Seattle fans might dislike on the AL West rival, has ranged from vicious to spiteful.

But by the end of Monday’s dreary and dismal 5-1 loss to the Astros, a noticeable portion of that booing was also being direct to the Mariners and their apathetic performance in their fourth consecutive defeat.

In a game with so much at stake, drawing a crowd of 39,920 to T-Mobile Park on a rainy and cool night, the disappointment and displeasure from fans was palpable.

Sadly, the loudest cheer of the night came in the eighth inning when Dominic Leone hit Altuve in the elbow with a 96-mph fastball.

Even Julio Rodriguez’s ninth-inning homer to right field off Ryan Stanek, which kept the Mariners from being shut out, didn’t draw as much of a reaction.

Logically, Seattle wasn’t going to win all seven of their games on this final homestand against AL West foes. The Astros and Rangers sit above them in the standings for a reason.

But it was how the Mariners lost that drove the reaction.

They watched as their best pitcher, Luis Castillo, struggled to deliver anything close to dominance in such a big outing and then were reminded about the team’s offensive liabilities, going scoreless against 40-year-old Justin Verlander, a persistent nemesis.

Castillo pitched a forgettable six innings, giving up five runs on eight hits with a walk and eight strikeouts.

After working a scoreless first inning, including an overpowering strikeout of Jose Altuve to start the game, Castillo’s outing imploded in the second inning.

Jose Abreu led off with a line drive to the gap in right-center that a sprinting Rodriguez couldn’t grab on one bounce, allowing it get to the wall. Abreu was credited with his first triple since 2021.

It looked as if Castillo might leave the lumbering first baseman stranded at third when he got Chas McCormick to ground out to second base without a run scoring and then struck out Jeremy Pena.

With two outs, Castillo got up 1-2 on Mauricio Dubon on a pair of elevated fastballs for swinging strikes. He was a strike away from a scoreless inning under difficult circumstances. But another 98-mph fastball on a 2-2 count stayed on the outside half of the plate. Dubon turned it into a line drive up the middle for an RBI single.

The Astros weren’t done. Light-hitting catcher Martin Maldonado took advantage of a sinker left in the middle of the plate on a 2-1 count, sending a double into the gap in left-center that allowed Dubon to score from first. Jose Altuve made it 3-0 with a single to left to score Maldonado.

A three-run deficit was disheartening but not insurmountable. But Castillo couldn’t keep it at three runs. In the third inning, Yordan Alvarez golfed a low slider below the strike zone deep into the seats in right-center for his 30th homer of the season.

Houston pushed the lead to 5-0 in the sixth inning with an impressive solo homer from Kyle Tucker. A 96-mph fastball that stayed on the inside half was launched off the facing of the upper deck for Tucker’s 29th homer of the season.

Meanwhile, Verlander delivered the sort of outing for the Astros that was expected when they reacquired him in a trade at the deadline.

The veteran right-hander dominated Seattle, pitching eight scoreless innings and allowing three hits with a walk and eight strikeouts.

The Mariners’ best, and really only, scoring opportunity against Verlander to mount any sort of comeback came in the third inning.

With one out, Dominic Canzone singled to right field and Josh Rojas also followed with a single to right. A five-pitch walk to J.P. Crawford loaded the bases for Rodriguez.

The Mariners’ most dangerous hitter walked to the plate as the crowd stood and roared in anticipation.

But after refusing to chase a slider in a dirt, Rodriguez got over-aggressive on a 1-0 curveball and a hit soft, one-hop ground ball to shortstop Pena, who flipped it to Altuve for the start of an inning-ending double play.