HOUSTON — Based on what transpired in the first two games of the series, including being no-hit for the second time this season on Saturday night, followed up with a matchup against Astros ace Justin Verlander on Sunday, not much was expected from the Mariners. The outlook seemed bleak and the outcome predetermined.
Filling the categories of small victories and accomplishments, the Mariners managed to get a hit and score a run, something that wasn’t a given heading into the afternoon series finale at Minute Maid Park.
But a win against the Astros?
Well, that’s just one accomplishment too far at this point.
In a game that was vastly more competitive than anticipated, the Astros got a solid outing from Verlander and just enough offense to finish the three-game series sweep with a 3-1 victory over Seattle.
The Mariners were outscored 19-3 in the three games. They had a total of seven hits in those three games which equaled the number of home runs that the Astros slugged against them.
“Tough series here, obviously,” manager Scott Servais. “I thought we competed really well today even though the results aren’t what we needed them to be.”
It’s been a tough series all season. Houston has absolutely handled Seattle this year. The Astros are 12-1 vs. the Mariners in the season series with six more games left to play. Houston has outscored Seattle 73-46 on the season and that includes a game where the Mariners scored 14 runs — their only win.
“That’s what you are striving to be,” Kyle Seager said of the Astros. “This is a team that is at the top right now. You go in there and you take your lumps, but you can learn from it. It should give everybody a little extra motivation to push themselves and work a little harder.”
While 14 teams have been no-hit twice in the same season, no team has endured the misery three times. For almost four innings, it appeared like the Mariners were going to etch out a special place in dubious baseball history by getting no-hit three times in a season and in back-to-back games.
Verlander carved them up for the first three frames, striking out six of the 10 batters he faced while issuing a walk. That left the Mariners hitless for 15 straight innings. Their last hit — a Seager single off Wade Miley — had come in the sixth inning of Friday’s loss.
But with two outs in the fourth inning, Seager ended the hitless streak with an oops of an infield single off the end of his bat that cue-balled toward third base and managed to stay fair.
“Well placed,” he said. “He was obviously pretty sharp today so you take anything you can get.”
The streak was done.
Per Stats LLC, the only team in the last 40 years to go hitless in more consecutive innings was the Dodgers in 1981, also against the Astros, with 16 straight.
So that was avoided.
Verlander shrugged off the single and struck out Tim Beckham with a nasty curveball to end the inning.
The Astros gave him a lead in the bottom of the fourth against veteran lefty Tommy Milone. A leadoff double from Alex Bregman, a double from Yordan Alvarez and Carlos Correa’s infield RBI single made it 1-0 to start the inning. Milone limited the damage to just one run, getting a big inning-ending double play off the bat of Robinson Chirinos.
Houston pushed the lead to 2-0 in the sixth. Bregman doubled off Milone, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Alvarez’s sac fly to center.
The Mariners got their lone run in the seventh, breaking a scoreless streak of 17 innings when Seager hammered a 3-0 fastball from Verlander into the Astros’ bullpen that cut the lead to 2-1. It was his fourth career homer off Verlander and ended the right-hander’s night. He finished with six innings pitched, one run allowed on three hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts.
“I like swinging 3-0,” Seager said. “You can be really aggressive there. Most of the time it’s a fastball and if he throws something else, so be it. If you swing and miss, who cares, it’s 3-1. It’s a very, very aggressive count.”
“Verlander was really good today,” Servais said. “Often times, you’ll see have either the curveball or the slider going, today he had them both going. Give him credit, he threw the ball really well and we didn’t get much going offensively.”
Seattle had some level of hope for a rally.
But reliever Matt Magill allowed another run to score in the bottom of the inning on a sac fly. With the Mariners’ offense in total dysfunction mode, overcoming a two-run lead was seemingly impossible.
They never threatened against the Astros bullpen in the final two innings.
Seattle got a strong effort from Milone as the “bulk” pitcher. He pitched five innings, allowing two runs on four hits with a walk and seven strikeouts against a tough Astros lineup.
Milone entered in the second inning after opener Sam Tuivailala followed up his scoreless first inning with back-to-back walks. With the Astros threatening, Milone calmly struck out Yuli Gurriel, Chirinos and Jake Marisnick to end the inning.
“I thought Tommy Milone did a really nice job to keep us in the game and give us a chance,” Servais said. “He threw the ball really well against that ball club and in this ballpark.”