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September 10, 2014 at 11:20 PM

Astros 5, Mariners 2 — “It was a bad night. I managed bad. They played bad. “

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So this could have been a night for the Mariners pick up a little ground for that playoff spot.

Sure all of the 17 games remaining on the schedule for Seattle are key, but on a night when the Oakland A’s and Detroit Tigers both lost, a win for the Mariners would have been highly beneficial, bringing them within one game of the A’s in the first wild card and giving them a half game lead over the Tigers in the second wild card.

With Hisashi Iwakuma on the mound for Seattle and facing the Houston Astros, who whose starting pitcher Nick Tropeano was making his major league debut, victory seemed apparent …. until it wasn’t.

Iwakuma gave a less than mediocre outing and the Mariners played one of their worst games in the second half of the season, mustering just five hits and playing poorly in the field in a disappointing 5-2 loss to the Astros.

With the loss, they dropped two of three games in the series while remaining two games behind the A’s and a half game behind the Tigers for the second wild card. Houston has now won its last four series, including series wins over the A’s and Angels. Houston won 51 games last year and is now 65-81. That’s still not a reason for the way the Mariners played on Wednesday.

“Kuma had a bad outing, my hitters had a bad outing, our defense had a bad outing, everything was bad,” said a frustrated Lloyd McClendon. “It was just one of those days. It was a very disappointing loss. We’ll come back Friday.”

It was not an ideal start to this brief homestand. The Mariners (79-66) now have Thursday off before opening a huge series with Oakland, starting on Friday at Safeco Field.

“Everything is definitely a little more magnified being in the hunt and this time of year when all the games are important,” said third baseman Kyle Seager. “But I don’t think you are doing the team justice or yourself justice if you dwell on it for too long. I think it’s a good time for that off day to regroup and come back out for the big series this weekend.”

The Mariners have shown the resiliency to move on after bad losses and bounce back with wins. Will they be able to do so with the elevated stakes?

“I sure in the hell hope so,” McClendon said. “We only have two weeks left.”

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Wild card standings

The problems started with Iwakuma, who just wasn’t sharp as evidenced by two walks in his outing. It’s something he had done in only three starts this season – he took the losses in all of them.

After working a 1-2-3 first inning with two strikeouts, he walked Jon Singleton with one out to start his problems in the second inning. After getting the second out, he gave up a soft single to Alex Presley and then Max Stassi scored both runners with a single to the left-center gap. Stassi later scored on a double to left field that Seattle’s James Jones couldn’t quite come up with as he crashed into the wall.

“Everything was up in the zone,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “I couldn’t command my pitches down in the zone and it cost me the game.”

Down 3-0, the Mariners at least answered in the bottom half of the inning against Tropeano.

Kyle Seager drew a lead-off walk, Brad Miller reached on an infield single and both runners moved into scoring position on Jonathan Villar’s throwing error. Mike Zunino came through with a double to left-center to score both runners and narrow the margin to 3-2.

But that’s as close to victory as the Mariners would get.

Houston tacked on a run in the fifth inning when Iwakuma gave up a one-out single to Robbie Grossman and a RBI double to Jose Altuve to make it 4-2. After walking the next batter he faced, McClendon had seen enough, pulling Iwakuma. His line – 4 1/3 innings pitched, four runs on six hits with two walks and six strikeouts – was far from a typical outing.

“Usually, I do make an adjustment, but today I just couldn’t find the rhythm,” he said. “I couldn’t get strike one which hurt me too. Then you have to throw a strike and they were waiting for the fastball or splitter.”

After getting the two runs off of Tropeano in the second inning, the Mariners never got any more. He worked just five innings, giving up the two runs on four hits with two walks and five strikeouts to get his first big league win.

“We swung at a lot of bad pitches,” McClendon said.

***

As for the stolen base by Chris Carter late in the game where replayed showed that Carter had come off the bag, McClendon got word from his video coordinator, but it was too late. Wilhelmsen, who they’ve pushed to work at a quick tempo for the best results, had already stepped on the rubber and the batter was in the batter’s box. Once that happens, you can’t challenge.

If you recall, Brad Miller who took the throw at second base didn’t really protest the call or signal to the dugout that Carter was indeed out, so there was no prompting for McClendon. When the play happened initially, I think we all assumed that Carter was safe. It wasn’t till the replays from ROOT that people saw he was actually out.

But that wasn’t what the lost the game.

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Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373

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