Mariners catcher Mike Zunino tags out the Astros’ Alex Bregman (2) during the third inning of a game June 6, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Mariners catcher Mike Zunino tags out the Astros’ Alex Bregman (2) during the third inning of a game June 6, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Bullpen implodes as Mariners settle for split with Astros

After Seattle rallies to take the lead, Houston scores 4 in the 7th inning en route to a 7-5 victory.

Well, the Seattle Mariners didn’t win the series. But they didn’t lose it, either.

And they didn’t lose their lead atop the American League West.

They turned to their bullpen after four innings with Wade LeBlanc allowing three runs — the most he’s surrendered since converting from the bullpen into the Mariners’ starting rotation.

But Mariners pitching cruised until the seventh. Juan Nicasio of late was in a groove but the Houston Astros jumped on him for four runs to erase the Mariners’ lead.

And in the end that ended the Mariners’ five-game win streak with a 7-5 loss on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The Mariners had a final shot to tie or create the fifth lead change of the day with two on for Nelson Cruz (the go-ahead run) in the top of the ninth inning. Cruz already homered earlier.

But Astros reliever Hector Rondon earned the save when he got Cruz to chase an 88-mph slider down.

“Our guys are really competing their tails off and have a lot of confidence,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters afterward. “We’ve been playing hard and continue to play hard. It just didn’t go our way tonight.”

Seattle (38-23) heads to Tampa Bay for a four-game series with the Rays — a team the Mariners recently swept — still leading by a game in the AL West over the Astros (38-25).

They would have liked three games up and a two-game sweep of the Astros.

“People talk about how we don’t have the toughest schedule. We don’t make the schedule. We just play,” Servais said. “That’s what we’re looking forward to. We’re going to play some really good teams here in June and our goal was to have a good road trip. We started off 1-1, and we head to Tampa and hopefully we’ll take care of business there.”

So much back and forth in this one. But the Astros had the final say.

Nicasio in the seventh inning threw three pitches out of the zone that the Astros turned into three hits — George Springer’s double, Alex Bregman’s RBI infield single and then Jose Altuve, the reigning American League MVP, took a slider that had catcher Mike Zunino set up on a knee for the pitch before Altuve lined it into left field for another RBI single.

Nicasio had retired 26 of the previous 29 batters he had faced before that inning.

“Juan has been really good,” Servais said. “He’s had a stetch of really nice outings. Just didn’t have the put-away pitch tonight.”

So the Mariners went from a 4-3 lead to trailing, 5-4 — with more Astros runs to come.

Dan Altavilla replaced Nicasio and Yuli Gurriel followed two batters later with a two-RBI single after a passed ball allowed Bregman and Altuve to advance. Just like that, a four-run seventh inning gave the Astros a 7-4 lead.

Denard Span hit his first home run as a Mariner and Kyle Seager added a solo shot in the eighth inning.

“We put pressure on them all night,” Servais said. “We knew it was going to be a tight game. We took a lead in a great spot, but give those guys credit, they put the bat on the ball.”

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