Listless Mariners lose to Astros as playoff hopes hurt

The uproar began with the Astros, specifically Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez, because, well, the same thing has happened to them in every MLB stadium since the pitch-stealing scandal became public in 2019.

At games at T-Mobile Park, it has ranged from vicious to spiteful for that trio of players, and sometimes for Kyle Tucker and other players who may dislike their AL West rival.

But by the end of Monday’s dull and disappointing 5-1 loss to the Astros, a notable portion of that reproach was also being directed at the Mariners and their indifferent performance in their fourth consecutive loss.

In a game with so much at stake, drawing a crowd of 39,920 to T-Mobile Park on a rainy and cold night, the fans’ frustration and anger were palpable and then audible.

Seattle fell to 87–72 on the season and finished 1.5 games behind the Astros (86–71), who hold the third AL wild-card spot, and four games behind the Rangers in the American League West.

“It’s really a game right now,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We cannot think beyond this. We have to win tomorrow’s game. “That’s where we are in our season.”

A loss on Tuesday won’t derail their postseason hopes, but it would be extremely damaging.

Sadly, the loudest cheer of the night came in the eighth inning when Dominic Leon hit Altuve in the elbow with a 96-mph fastball.

Even Julio Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly off Ryan Stanek in the ninth inning, which saved the Mariners from elimination, did not get the same reaction.

Shortstop J.P. Crawford said, “We know what’s at stake.” “That (expletive) is in the past now. We will have to wait for tomorrow. There are bigger games ahead of us now. There’s nothing we can do about these games, terrible loss. All these losses suck right now, but we can’t do anything about them right now. We have to keep our heads high and look at the positive side and be ready to play tomorrow.”

Logically, Seattle was not going to win all seven of its games on this final homestand against AL West foes. The Astros and Rangers sit above them in the standings for a reason.

Top three wild-card teams advance to playoff / *Texas has tiebreaker over Seattle

The Mariners’ playoff prospects (via FanGraphs), entering Tuesday

To make the playoffs: 28.0%
To win the division: 2.6%
Games remaining: 6

But the Mariners’ loss led to a negative reaction.

They watched their best pitcher, Luis Castillo, struggle to deliver anything close to dominance in such a big outing, and then they were reminded of the team’s offensive liabilities, a scoreless loss in eight innings against 40-year-old Justin Verlander. Remained free.

Castillo pitched a forgettable six innings, giving up five runs on eight hits and eight strikeouts, despite, as Servais said, “stuff maybe as good as we’ve seen it all year.”

After a scoreless first inning, which included a strong strikeout of Altuve to start the game, Castillo’s outing turned sour in the second inning.

José Abreu headed a line drive to the gap in right-center, which the speedy Rodríguez could not catch on a bounce, sending it to the wall. Abreu was credited with his first triple since 2021.

It looked like Castillo might leave the first baseman stranded at third when he threw out Chas McCormick at second base without scoring and then threw out Jeremy Pena.

With two outs, Castillo went 1-2 on Mauricio Dubon on a pair of elevated fastballs for a swinging strike. He was one step away from a scoreless innings in difficult conditions. But on a 2-2 count another 98-mph fastball stopped on the outer half of the plate. Dubon turned it into a line drive up the middle for an RBI single.

Astro’s work is not complete. Light-hitting catcher Martin Maldonado took advantage of a sinker left down the middle of the plate on a 2–1 count, sending a double into the gap in left-center that allowed Dubon to score from first. Altuve drove in Maldonado with a single to left to make it 3-0.

“Pitch location was a big part of that second and really the whole game,” Castillo said through interpreter Freddy Llanos. “Things are like that. Nobody is perfect.”

The three-run deficit was disappointing but not insurmountable. But Castillo could not maintain it at three runs. In the third inning, Yordan Alvarez golfed a low slider deep into the right-center seats below the strike zone for his 30th Homer of the season.

Houston increased the lead to 5–0 on Kyle Tucker’s impressive solo homer in the sixth inning. A 96-mph fastball that stopped on the inside half was launched into the upper deck for Tucker’s Homer of the season.

“Today, I felt different,” Castillo said. “I was feeling healthy and excited. You can tell when the velocity goes up a bit. But no matter how you feel, sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”

The Mariners had won each of Castillo’s previous 10 starts.

Verlander, meanwhile, performed the kind of performance the Astros expected when they acquired him in a trade at the deadline.

The veteran right-hander dominated Seattle, pitching eight scoreless innings and allowing three hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. Astros manager Dusty Baker allowed him to start the ninth for the shutout. But after Josh Rojas doubled to lead off the inning, Baker went to the bullpen. Rojas had two of the Mariners’ three hits off Verlander. Verlander was charged with the run on Rodriguez’s sac fly.

“You have to give credit where credit is due,” Servais said. “Justin Verlander, as we’ve seen him over the last few years, and where he’s at the end of his career, he’s been excellent. He really was. Going into the game, we’ve seen him a lot in the past, we talked about the need to get over him early and once he got into a rhythm, you know, you saw it tonight. “He pitched very well.”

The Mariners’ best, and really only, scoring opportunity to mount any kind of comeback against Verlander came in the third inning.

With one out, Dominic Canzon singled to right field and Josh Rojas also singled to right. A five-pitch walk to Crawford loaded the bases for Rodriguez.

The Mariners’ most dangerous hitter walked to the plate as the crowd stood and roared in anticipation.

But after refusing to chase a slider in the dirt, Rodriguez got overly aggressive on a 1-0 curveball and hit a soft, one-hop ground ball to shortstop Pena, who lofted it past Altuve for the start of an inning-ending double. Tossed towards. play.

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