HOUSTON — It’s almost impossible to see the “if” as in if the Mariners could somehow beat the Astros.
There is only the “when” as in when the Astros defeat the Mariners in one of their myriad ways based largely on novel concepts of talent and execution.
Leads never feel safe, comebacks seem unlikely, and victory? Well, maybe next year. The gap between first-place team and the last-place team in the American League West seems wider than the 34 games that separate them in the standings.
There was nothing about Seattle’s most recent failure — a non-descript 7-4 defeat — that indicates that the current losing streak vs. the Astros, at nine games, will end in one of the final four games between the teams this season.
The Mariners weren’t blown out, but it also never seemed like they were going to win, even when they were leading.
That feeling likely won’t change when they face Justin Verlander, the leading candidate for the American League Cy Young, on Saturday night while countering with erratic rookie Yusei Kikuchi. And Sunday, well, they face Gerrit Cole, the other leading candidate for the AL Cy Young, while rolling out Felix Hernandez on a Mariners farewell tour in a place that has been a house of horrors for him in recent years.
A victory isn’t an impossibility for the Mariners despite all past evidence screaming to the contrary. The Astros are without All-Stars George Springer and Carlos Correa, who are on the injured list. And Yuli Gurriel could join them after aggravating a hamstring issue while running the bases in the fifth inning. The beauty of baseball is that the worst team will still win at least 50 games in a season and a hot pitcher can make any team relevant.
But these two teams have played 15 times this season and the Mariners have won once. That lone victory — a 14-1 trouncing — came on June 5, when Seattle scored eight runs off of rookie reliever Brady Rodgers, who hasn’t appeared in a MLB game since that outing.
Sure there have been some close games and tough defeats. But as manager Scott Servais often reminds people, “this is a results-based game.” And the results against the Astros are not good.
The Mariners tried an opener in front of Tommy Milone. But rookie Reggie McClain gave up three runs in the first inning, negating the two-run lead his offense had provided him.
The plan was for McClain to go multiple innings. He went one.
Milone was momentarily effective, tossing back-to-back scoreless innings. The Mariners tied the game at 3 in the fourth.
But Houston’s talent eventually won out. A run in the fourth, another in the fifth and two more runs in the sixth offset Daniel Vogelbach’s 30th homer of the season in the sixth.
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