By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Put the Seattle Mariners in 1979 replica uniforms, as happened Saturday night, and … well, if you remember that year, this 9-4 loss to Houston probably seemed an appropriate tribute to the franchise’s disco-era charm.
Brandon Maurer failed to make it through the fifth inning, and the Mariners’ attack pretty much turtled against Brett Oberholtzer, who entered the evening winless in six decisions and sporting a 5.68 ERA.
Turn Back the Clock?
Be careful what you ask for, Mariners. Those 1979 forebears of yours lost 97 games. Nights like this weren’t unfamiliar.
Maurer (1-3) gave up six runs in 4 1⁄3 innings. Tom Wilhelmsen, who hadn’t allowed a run in his previous 13 2⁄3 innings, wasn’t much better in yielding two runs in 1 2⁄3 innings.
The Astros recalled Oberholtzer earlier in the day from Class AAA Oklahoma City, where he made two starts in penance for getting battered on a regular basis throughout April and into early May.
On this night?
Oberholtzer (1-6) gave up two tainted runs in the first inning but little else while striking out eight before handing a six-run lead to the bullpen to start the seventh. (The 1979 Astros, by the way, were pretty good.)
Rookie wonderkid George Springer, who seems to have conquered some early yips, keyed Houston’s 11-hit attack with a pair of two-run homers. The first opened the scoring in the first; the second finished Maurer in the fifth.
Springer also drove in a run with a ground out and finished with five RBI. Jose Altuve, Chris Carter and Alex Presley each had two hits. Carter started a five-run fifth with a leadoff double.
The Astros built a 9-2 lead before the Mariners trimmed the final margin. Darin Downs, Josh Fields and Kyle Farnsworth closed out Oberholtzer’s victory.
Had this taken place inside a concrete clam, in front of say, 5,000 fans, the illusion would have been nearly perfect.
That the announced 21,585 seemed to groove its way through the evening is a tribute to Safeco’s charms and a strong effort from the club’s marketing staff. The problem, as in 1979, was on the field. (Maybe also the music.)
Maurer got off to a dreadful start. He opened the game by walking Altuve on five pitches before putting a first-pitch, 93-mph fastball on a tee for Springer, who rocked a no-doubt homer to right.
The Mariners answered immediately— with a big assist.
Oberholtzer issued a one-out walk to Stefen Romero before the Mariners loaded the bases on singles by Robinson Cano and Justin Smoak.
Kyle Seager’s grounder to first should have been an inning-ending double play, but Marc Krauss threw the ball into left field. Two runs scored, and the game was tied.
Maurer retired 11 in a row after Springer’s homer before Matt Dominguez grounded a two-out single through the left side in the fourth inning. Krauss then flied to left.
Oberholtzer got on a roll, too. The Mariners didn’t hit the ball of the infield in the second, third and fourth innings.
Then came the Houston fifth.
Carter led off by whacking a double into the left-field corner and went to third when Presley grounded a single through the right side.
The Mariners had a chance for a double play on Jonathan Villar’s grounder to second, but Cano bobbled the ball and settled, barely, for a tag on Presley as Carter scored for a 3-2 lead.
Villar broke for second on the first pitch to Altuve, who punched a single down the right-field line. Villar kept running and scored all the way from first.
Springer followed with his second two-run homer, which made it 6-2 and finished Maurer. In came Wilhelmsen, who allowed two walks and an RBI single before closing the inning.
Wilhelmsen started the sixth with two more walks and both scored. There was more, but you get the idea.
Come Sunday, the Mariners try to turn the clock back. They hand the ball to Hisashi Iwakuma for the series finale. Regular uniforms and music. Everyone loves Pitbull, right?