So much for the sweep.
The Seattle Mariners fell far short Sunday against the American League West-leading Houston Astros.
But Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon insisted his club is moving in the right direction, despite a 6-2 loss at a sun-drenched Safeco Field in front of 40,905 fans.
“We’re starting to play better baseball,” McClendon said.
A day after naming Edgar Martinez hitting coach and demoting Howard Johnson to their minor-league system, the Mariners (32-38) mustered four hits, one more hit than the total number of their home runs (three) in Saturday’s 6-3 win over Houston.
That victory set up a chance for the sweep, but to no avail.
There were opportunities for Seattle early and often Sunday, starting against Astros rookie pitcher Vincent Velasquez, he of the 43-pitch first inning.
Velasquez lasted 31/3 innings, allowing four walks (three in the first) but striking out five.
And those Mariners’ batters? They had two hits through four-plus innings, but two of the four were for extra bases (doubles by Seth Smith and Logan Morrison).
Trailing 2-1 in the fifth, Seattle starter J.A. Happ’s chance to get out of the inning unscathed ended on Brad Miller’s two-out error after Happ worked a full count to designated hitter Evan Gattis. Gattis’ grounder went through Miller’s legs and continued into left field, allowing Jason Castro to score from second. The inning continued for another two batters and 10 pitches for Happ.
Happ (3-4), who left after five innings, allowed seven hits and two earned runs and hasn’t won a decision since May 9 against Oakland, when he allowed one earned run over five innings. He’s lost three games in a row after five consecutive no-decisions from May 15 through June 5.
“I thought I had good stuff,” Happ said, “I’m trying not to read too much into it. A few things here or there … a different ballgame.”
McClendon said Happ pitched well enough to earn a victory. The defense helped out, too, getting him out of jams in the first and second by converting on inning-ending double plays.
“I thought J.A. pitched behind in the count early in the ballgame, but as the game went on I thought he started to find his groove,” McClendon said.
Meanwhile, Houston (41-30) continued its feast on Mariners’ pitchers, extending its franchise record for consecutive multi-home run games to eight when Colby Rasmus (two-run homer) and George Springer (solo) connected in the seventh and ninth innings, respectively, off relievers Tom Wilhelmsen and Vidal Nuño. The Astros have hit 103 home runs in 71 games, 27 in 13 games against Seattle.
Joe Beimel threw a scoreless eighth for the Mariners, and Fernando Rodney was the only other available reliever, McClendon said. The manager noted that the bullpen has been stretched thin in recent outings, including new closer Carson Smith (unavailable Sunday), who had recorded three saves over the previous four games.
“We’ve got our bullpen to a point where we like it, and I think they are going to be good,” McClendon said. “If we keep running guys out there, they aren’t going to be worth a darn.”