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September 21, 2014 at 5:30 PM

Astros 8, Mariners 3 — Seattle loses ground in the playoff race

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Time is running out and opportunities are being wasted. The idea of having more time and more games to mend what is broken no more.

With each game, it gets more difficult for the Mariners and they have done little to help themselves in a playoff race that nobody is playing well enough to take control.

On Sunday, the Mariners got yet another mediocre performance from starter Hisashi Iwakuma and a worse outing from reliever Yoervis Medina in a 8-3 loss to the Astros. In a series they needed to take two of three, the Mariners not only lost two of the three, and never gave themselves a chance to win in the two losses.

Despite the Astros being a much- improved team, finishing with a 10-9 season record against them isn’t ideal for a team looking to make the playoffs.

The Mariners (83-72) are just 4-8 in their past 12 games and still trail Oakland and Kansas City for the two AL wild-card spots, both of those teams also struggling recently. The Royals won Sunday and have a 1½-game lead over the Mariners for the second wild card. The A’s are now two games up with their walk off win

Seattle has benefitted from the A’s and Royals playing the same type of inconsistent baseball down the stretch to remain in the race. Yet, they’ve failed to take advantage of it.

“That’s when you really want to win – when they’re losing,” said second base Robinson Cano. “It’s something you can control.

They limp into their final road series — a four-game set in Toronto — hoping to have a chance to still slide into a wild-card spot in the final seven games of the season.

“We lost a tough series,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “But we are still in this thing. I guarantee there are a lot of teams that would love to be in place. We’ll take our chances.”

Do they have it in them?

A toy magic eight ball might say: “Outlook not so good.” And it would be hard to argue with that prediction.

The Mariners are saying the right things.

“We just have to regroup,” said a frustrated Mike Zunino. “Obviously this isn’t the series we wanted to have here. Hopefully we can bounce back and string a few together in Toronto.”

There seems to be genuine belief in those words. .

“Bottom line is that we are not out of it by any means,” said outfielder Michael Saunders. “Thankfully, our destiny is kind of in our own hands. We are not three or four games back or have four or five teams ahead of us where we need a lot of teams to lose. If we just go out and take care of business.”

They will have to play better than the 3-4 start to this 11-game road trip.

“We’ve proven in the past that we can go through some rough stretches and we turned it around,” Saunders said. “We have seven games left and we can’t dwell on this series at all.. As cliché as it sounds, you have to have a short memory in baseball.”

Sunday’s loss was certainly one to forget.

The Mariners gave Iwakuma a 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth inning when Saunders broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run homer to right off Astros starter Collin McHugh.

Instead of building on the momentum with a shutdown inning, Iwakuma gave it right back to the Astros in the bottom half of the fifth.

He issued his second leadoff walk of the game to No. 9 hitter Jonathan Villar. Robbie Grossman followed with a single, then Seattle nemesis Jose Altuve pulled a double into the left-field corner to score Villar.

With first base open, Iwakuma walked Chris Carter to load the bases and then struck out Dexter Fowler, giving the glimmer of hope that a double play ball would end the inning.

Instead, Iwakuma fall behind Alex Presley 3-0 and his 3-1 pitch — a grooved fastball — was lined into center field to score two runs and put the Astros up 4-3. The hit ended Iwakuma’s outing.

His line: 4 1/3 innings pitched, four runs allowed on six hits with a season-high three walks and eight strikeouts.

“I think I had good arm action today and tried to stay mentally tough in big situations,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “I got out of some jams, but sometimes they put good at-bats and they kind of got me. At the end, it wasn’t good.”

Still, as bad as Iwakuma was, the Mariners were only down 4-3. Right-hander Carson Smith got out of the fifth inning, not allowing any runs to cross. Dominic Leone also pitched a scoreless sixth inning.

A comeback wasn’t implausible.

But it didn’t stay a one-run lead. In the seventh, Yoervis Medina was called on to get one out with runners on second and third. But as has been the case in the past few outings, Medina wasn’t the answer.

Medina served up a three-run homer to Marisnick to make it 7-3. It was the first home run he’d given up since April 18. But it was his third straight outing against the Astros in which he struggled.

“Everybody goes through ruts during the course of a season, but this isn’t the time to do it,” McClendon said. “He hasn’t been good. His command hasn’t been good. He threw a couple of lousy slider and his fastballs have been up.”


Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373



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