HOUSTON (CBS Radio) – The Astros have been hot at home this season but after winning the series opener over the Mariners on Monday night, they lost the final two games, this time an 8-3 loss on Wednesday night. It was the first series they have dropped at home since losing two of three to the White Sox at the end of May. Now their lead in the American League West is down to two games after the Ranger beat the Padres in 10 innings late Wednesday night. The Mariners broke open a tie with two runs in the eighth inning then added three more in the ninth to seal the win.
“This wasn’t a good series for us and they did more things to win this series,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said after Wednesday’s loss. “It’s nice to have the off day tomorrow. We’ll come back refreshed but we’re used to winning here. We’re going to win moving forward at home. We like playing here but this series was not our best.”
Astros starter Scott Kazmir was taken out in the fourth inning after giving up a leadoff double, a strikeout and allowing an RBI single to tie the game. He allowed seven hits and three runs (two earned) while issuing a pair of walks and striking out five.
“This one hurt,” Kazmir said. “This one was all on me not getting through five, putting the team in a bad spot. It shows later on in the innings – guys have to eat up innings. It was frustrating especially how I felt because I felt really well going into the game.
“When you go out there and you feel you have what it takes, you feel like you’re in rhythm, you’re in sync and then you have nothing to show for it, it’s tough.”
Chad Qualls relieved Kazmir with one out in the fourth and got the last two outs of the inning. He retired the first two batters he faced in the sixth before allowing a single and then was replaced with Will Harris, who got the final out. Harris ran into trouble in the seventh inning but was saved by a double play when Colby Rasmus caught a fly ball in right field and fired it home to catcher Hank Conger, who barely got the tag on Nelson Cruz to end the inning. Cruz left the game with a strained right quad.
Seattle got on the board first when Stefen Romero scored on a Shawn O’Malley single to right field in the second inning. But Houston answered in the bottom half of the inning. Rasmus led off with a double off the left field wall. Then Carlos Gomez was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs. In his return to the majors, Preston Tucker singled to right field to score Rasmus and give Houston a 1-0 lead. Tucker was sent down to Triple-A Fresno on August 22 to make room for right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers on the 25-man roster, but he was recalled on Wednesday, inserted into the starting lineup and immediately helped his club out. Next batter, Luis Valbuena hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Gomez from third and putting them up 2-0. The inning ended on a double play.
The Mariners tied it in the third when Franklin Gutierrez hit a ground rule double to score Kyle Seager, but the Astros answered again. Jed Lowrie hit a one-out double to deep left center. Two batters later, Evan Gattis singled to right center to score Lowrie and put Houston back on top 3-2. Seattle, however, tied it again in the fifth when Robinson Cano singled in Seager. The Astros threatened in the seventh with runners on second and third but Jose Altuve struck out to end the inning.
Right-hander Pat Neshek immediately found trouble in the eighth after allowing a leadoff walk and then overthrowing first base, putting runners on second and third with no outs.
“That was the worst play I’ve ever made in my life,” Neshek said. “You know, it happens. It got away from me but yeah, that’s got to be made. It changes the game a lot.”
It did lead to the go-ahead run for Seattle. O’Malley stepped to the plate and singled to right for the third time in the game. Morrison scored and the Mariners took a 4-3 lead. Neshek left the eighth with bases loaded and one out for Seattle. Oliver Perez came in and forced Cruz into a groundout (Seager out at second) but O’Malley to put his team up 5-3. Josh Fields pitched the ninth and allowed back-to-back singles to start it off before giving up a three-run blast to O’Malley and an 8-3 lead for Seattle. Neshek was tagged with the loss for the second night in a row and fell to 3-5 on the season.
“I feel like I got pretty good stuff,” Neshek said. “That’s the job I signed up for. Every night you’re going to come out and pitch a tie game or pitch a game up by one or two and no matter what the outcome is, you toughen up and come out the next night. I’ve done it for many years and I’m going to be ready again when we play the Twins here on Friday.”
Seattle (63-71) collected 13 hits, including three from O’Malley out of the ninth spot, and six walks on the night while the Astros (73-61) finished with seven hits. Lowrie was the only Astros player with multiple hits in the game — a pair of doubles. Hank Conger and Rasmus also doubled Houston while Gomez tripled in the ninth. Jose Altuve went 0-for-4 with one strikeout while Carlos Correa was 0-for-3 with one walk.
Now Houston’s lead in the American League West is down to two games after the Rangers beat the Padres in 10 innings late Wednesday night. The Astros have Thursday off and then host the Minnesota Twins for a three-game series starting Friday. Right-hander Collin McHugh (14-7, 3.92 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros to open the series and opposing him will be righty Mike Pelfrey (6-8, 3.85 ERA). The Twins won two of three when these two teams played at Target Field last weekend.