HOUSTON — Too little and not enough.
The Mariners hit four homers, and it wasn’t enough. They turned to their rookie wonderkid reliever in the late innings of a tie game, and it didn’t work. They mounted a series of comebacks but fell short.
The Mariners’ recent road miseries continued Wednesday night in a 9-8 loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park when Edwin Diaz served up a two-run homer to Luis Valbuena in the eighth inning.
Valbuena broke a 7-7 tie when turned around a 96-mph fastball for a 415-foot drive to right field — and it was a no-doubter from the time it left the bat.
"When he hit that ball," Diaz said, "I didn’t look back. I knew that was out."
This makes nine straight road losses for the Mariners, who are 2-14 away from home since starting the season on a 19-8 burst. They also failed to pump the brakes sufficiently when facing a sweep.
These three losses marked the sixth time they suffered a sweep, which actually makes it somewhat remarkable that they remain above .500 — if just barely at 43-42.
"I don’t think we played particularly well here," manager Scott Servais said. "They did. For whatever reason, after finishing up strong on (a 7-2) homestand, it just didn’t carry over down here."
The loss spoiled what had the makings of a stirring comeback.
The Mariners rallied from a 5-0 deficit with a four-run fourth inning that included homers by Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Dae-Ho Lee against Houston starter Mike Fiers.
After Nathan Karns gave up two tainted runs when the Mariners made two errors in the sixth, Seth Smith tied the game with a three-run homer in the seventh inning against Michael Feliz.
Even after Valbuena’s homer, the Mariners scored once in the ninth inning and had the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position with one out before coming up short.
"They jumped on us pretty good early," Seager said, "but we fought our way back. Ultimately, it didn’t go our way. We got a couple of big hits. We just needed one more."
Diaz (0-2) worked a scoreless seventh inning but started the eighth by yielding a leadoff double to Jason Castro.
After Jake Marisnick replaced Castro as a pinch-runner, Diaz struck out George Springer and worked back from a 2-0 hole against Valbuena by getting two swinging strikes on four-seam fastballs.
Valbuena didn’t miss the next one.
"He made a pitch in a bad spot," Servais said. "He had a couple of strikes on Valbuena but got the ball down and in. We didn’t want to go there. (Valbuena) yanked it. Give him credit. He hit it out of the ballpark."
Ken Giles (1-3) got the victory for pitching a scoreless eighth inning before Luke Gregerson wobbled through the ninth inning for his 14th save.
Gregerson issued two four-pitch walks with one out, and Cano followed with an RBI double to left. That put the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.
But Gregerson struck out Nelson Cruz and, after an intentional walk to Seager, struck out Lee.
It didn’t start well, either.
Mariners starter Wade LeBlanc suffered more damage in a three-run first inning than in 12 innings combined over his two previous starts.
Problems started with a one-out walk to Valbuena, who went to second on Jose Altuve’s single. Carlos Correa’s double on a ball that hopped the wall down the right-field line scored one run.
LeBlanc had a chance to limit the damage to one run when he struck out Colby Rasmus, but Carlos Gomez pulled a two-run double into the left-field corner.
The Astros pushed the lead to 4-0 when Evan Gattis led off the second inning with a booming homer to left. Houston added an unearned run in the third on Gomez’s two-out triple after an error by shortstop Ketel Marte.
"It was one of those days where nothing is really working," LeBlanc said. "They weren’t missing anything. You saw for yourself. They didn’t hit anything soft. Our offense showed up. I didn’t do my part."
Cano started the Mariners’ comeback with a leadoff homer in the fourth inning. Fiers then walked Cruz before Seager unloaded a 414-foot bomb to right field for his 17th homer.
Lee followed with another homer. That quickly, the Mariners were back to within 5-4. Fiers had not allowed a homer in his three previous starts.
PLAY OF THE GAME: A throwing error by pitcher Nathan Karns opened the way to Houston’s two-run sixth inning. He picked up Carlos Gomez’s leadoff bunt and threw wildly to first.
Gomez was credited with a bunt single, which means the scorer believed he would have beaten a good throw, but the error added an extra base.
It was the second straight game that a pitcher made a poor throw to first on a routine play. Mike Montgomery pitched around his error in sixth inning of Tuesday’s loss.
PLUS: Seth Smith hit a three-run homer and has five homers and 14 RBIs in his last seven games…Robinson Cano went 3-for-3 with two walks in raising his average to .308 and his on-base percentage to .366…Cano also extended his hitting streak against Houston to 16 games.
MINUS: The Mariners committed three errors, which led to two unearned runs and played a role in allowing two other runs to score…Ketel Marte committed his 13th error, which is tied with Tampa Bay’s Brad Miller, a former Mariner, for the most among American League shortstops…third baseman Kyle Seager committed his 10th error. He had just eight in 2014 when he won a Gold Glove for defensive excellence.
STAT PACK: Rookie reliever Edwin Diaz set a franchise record when he began the seventh inning by striking out Colby Rasmus. It was Diaz’s 11th straight out via a strikeout. The previous record was 10 by Randy Johnson in 1997…Robinson Cano reached 20 homers for the seventh time in his career. Only five other second basemen have done that: Jeff Kent did it 12 times, while Craig Biggio, Joe Gordon, Rogers Hornsby and Dan Uggla each did it seven times.
QUOTABLE: Mariners starter Wade LeBlanc gave up two runs over 12 innings in his two previous starts since arriving in a June 21 trade from Toronto. On Wednesday, he allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings to the Astros.
"Command was off," he said. "I was still throwing strikes. But with the stuff that I have, if I’m not commanding the ball against an aggressive team like this, it has the potential for a long night."
SHORT HOPS: The homers by Kyle Seager and Dae-Ho Lee in the fourth inning marked the third time this season the Mariners hit back-to-back homers…the Mariners hit four homers, which marked the sixth time this season that they’ve hit four or more…Houston left fielder Colby Rasmus struck out five times. The rest of the Astros struck out four times.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners