HOUSTON — The Seattle Mariners failed to win a game in their weekend series with the Astros, but that didn’t mean their trip to Houston was fruitless.
At least not in the eyes of manager Scott Servais.
“Our guys had good at-bats, very competitive games, you’re one swing or one big hit away from getting over the hump and winning a couple of these games and we will,” Servais said. “The experiences our guys are gaining right now are very valuable.”
Rookie Yordan Alvarez drove in three runs to back up seven strong innings by Gerrit Cole and help the Astros to a 6-1 win Sunday to complete the three-game sweep. Houston won the first two games in extra innings, 2-1 and 6-5.
The Mariners jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first inning Sunday when J.P. Crawford homered into the bullpen in right-center field with one out.
Crawford has reached safely in 30 of his past 33 games and is hitting .309 in that span.
“J.P.’s playing really well,” Servais said. “Doing everything defensively, the quality at-bats are really good. We need it to continue, he’s in a good spot right now.”
Unfortunately for the Mariners, Crawford’s homer was their lone offensive highlight. The rest of the day belonged to Alvarez, Cole and the Astros.
After sitting out two days nursing a sore left knee, Alvarez didn’t waste any time getting back to work in his return to the lineup. He delivered a two-run double in the first inning and a run-scoring single in the third.
“He’s a difference maker in the middle of the order when he gets pitches to hit and hits them hard,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said. “It’s nice to have him back, obviously. He’s still not moving around great … but he made a huge impact today.”
George Springer drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the first inning before a single by Jose Altuve and a walk by Alex Bregman loaded the bases. Alvarez then doubled on a line drive to right field to put Houston up 2-1.
There was one out in the third when Bregman tripled to left field. Alvarez pushed the lead to 3-1 when he drove in Bregman on a single to right.
Cole (8-5), who allowed just four singles after the homer to Crawford, struck out 10 and walked one to win his fourth straight decision. He leads the American League with 151 strikeouts this season.
Cole was asked about throwing 100 mph in the seventh inning when his pitch count was already over 100.
“I just like to leave it out there,” he said. “I just like to feel like I put in a good day’s work. When you get that privilege to go back out and you get the leash to go over 100 pitches, you respect that. You respect the guys that have been battling for you for the previous seven innings to keep the score where it is. So, you just want to leave it out there and make sure you did everything you could.”
After consecutive one-run wins in the 10th inning, the Astros didn’t need any late dramatics in this one. They padded the lead with a three-run eighth inning highlighted by a two-run single by Jake Marisnick.
Mariners starter Marco Gonzales (9-7) allowed six hits and three runs. He walked three in five innings to snap a four-game winning streak in his first loss since June 2.
Domingo Santana had two hits for the Mariners, who lost their fourth straight overall and fell to 1-9 against the Astros this season.
As was the case throughout the series, the Mariners simply couldn’t come up with a big hit when they needed one.
Santana singled with one out in the fourth before a two-out single by Omar Narvaez. But Cole struck out Kyle Seager to end that inning.
Santana singled again with two out in the sixth, but Cole retired the last four batters he faced, including two strikeouts, to end his day and keep the Mariners from cutting the deficit.
Collin McHugh got the first two outs in the eighth before Mallex Smith singled and Crawford. Ryan Pressly, who later in the day would be named to the American League All-Star team, took over and struck out Santana to end the threat.
The Mariners are off Monday before opening a three-game series with St. Louis on Tuesday at T-Mobile Park.