Mariners continue to come up short against the Astros

After recovering from a four-run deficit, the Mariners lose to the Astros in the ninth inning, in part due to a very dubious umpire call.

There was a different feel this time around, as the Mariners prepared to renew their rivalry with the Astros on Friday night. And not just because the M’s were wearing their “city connect” uniforms for the first time.

This didn’t seem like the same powerful Astros ballclub which Seattle had faced so often in past seasons. Houston came into the series with a decidedly average (for them) 16-15 record, not looking like the ball club which won the World Series last year.

The Mariners were on a run of four consecutive come-from-behind wins, with Luis Castillo preparing to take the mound for the series opener. The Astros were there for the taking.

Umpire gets it wrong

In the end however, the outcome was hauntingly similar, as the Mariners lost 6-4. In fairness though, the defeat was influenced by an extremely poor call by home plate umpire Shane Livensparger.

Seattle had come all the way back from a four-run deficit, to tie the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth. However, unlike the Mariners ball club of the past two seasons, this version is lacking in good fortune.

This was epitomized when it looked like reliever Matt Brash had struck out Kyle Tucker, for the first out of the ninth inning. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, Livensparger inexplicably called it a ball and the at-bat went to a full count.

Tucker subsequently took advantage of the situation, to hit a two-run homer which ultimately proved to be the winning score. No matter how much Brash has struggled this season, it is only fair to point out this was the first home run he had allowed since becoming a reliever.

Mariners manager Scott Servais let Livensparger know what he thought, when he went to remove Brash later on in the inning. Servais was ejected as a result, giving him reason to become even more animated towards the home plate umpire.

Servais spoke about the incident with the media after the game. He said:

“It probably should not have happened. I thought (Brash) had Tucker struck out. He made a really good pitch on him, but unfortunately we did not get the call. You hate to say it comes down to one pitch for the outcome of a game, but it really did tonight. He missed it. There’s nothing we can do about it now. Unfortunately it happens. Some of those will go our way eventually. We needed it tonight and it didn’t work out. It’s very frustrating.”

However, as much as Servais believes the outcome of the game just came down to that one bad call, it didn’t. The Mariners had opportunities to win, while also causing enough problems for themselves.

Castillo not his usual self again

For a start, you would like to assume scoring four runs in a game with Castillo starting, would be enough to win most games. However, this was not the case on Friday night.

The truth is that after a hot start in his first four outings of the year, Castillo just hasn’t been himself of late. Yes, average for him is good for most pitchers, but it still didn’t help against the Astros, as he gave up a season-high four earned runs.

Some would argue the two-time All-Star had a strong outing, save for the third inning. And certainly, being able to go seven innings helped an overused and undermanned bullpen.

Castillo still needs to be better however, especially for a ballclub struggling to even get to .500 at the moment. It’s only a minor concern at this stage, but there has been a slight down-tick in his average velocity to this point in 2023.

For the third inning in question, Castillo issued a walk to put two runners on base with two outs. He then served up a pitch, which Yordan Alvarez blasted for three runs and a 3-0 lead for the visitors.

Castillo gave his take on the home run hit. Speaking though an interpreter, he said:

“The first changeup, it looked perfect – right where I wanted to put it. The second one, I wanted to put it in the same place, but unfortunately I put it where (Alvarez) could hit it and he hit the home run. … It was one bad pitch that I left there. After that, I was able to adjust myself and attack the zone.”

As much as Castillo did indeed adjust, Houston still added another run in the top of the fourth to make it 4-0. He then retired the final 10 batters he faced before leaving the game.

On the offensive side, the Mariners were — almost predictably — struggling to get anything going. Through the first four innings they had no hits, only once getting onto base via a Ty France walk.

The turning point

However, the Seattle bats finally gave the 32,944 fans reason to cheer in the bottom of the fifth. Two singles and a walk brought Kolten Wong to the plate, with a bases-loaded situation.

Wong has plenty of detractors in Seattle, and with good reason after a poor start to his year. He didn’t help matters by quickly going down 0-2 in the count.

In fairness to the 2011 first round draft pick, he has performed better in recent games. He proceeded to connect with just his second extra-base hit of the season, leading to three runs which pulled Seattle to within 4-3.

Wong spoke to the media about his scoring hit after the game. He said:

“It was just a big situation. Got down 0-2 quick, and we were down 4-0 at the time. It was a big situation, big swing of events. I definitely got a little excited for sure.”

While the Mariners didn’t immediately build on the momentum, they eventually tied the game in the bottom of the eighth. Eugenio Suarez hit a two-out single to bring France home and make it 4-4.

Even though the Astros regained the lead in controversial circumstances in the top of the ninth, there was still a chance. This soon evaporated however.

A costly decision for the Mariners

Teoscar Hernandez had what should have been a lead-off single. However, his ill-advised attempt to make it a double resulted in him being tagged out at second.

J.P. Crawford did successfully reach base with a single in the next at-bat. However, Taylor Trammell then hit into a double-play to end the game.

Servais talked about Hernandez’s error afterwards. He said:

“Nobody feels worse about it more than Teo. … He’s a very positive guy and he made a mistake. He’s as hard on himself as anybody. He made a mistake in the ninth inning. You’ve got to move on from it, learn from it and go from there.”

With the loss, the Mariners dropped to 15-17 on the season, while the Astros improved to 17-15. Marco Gonzales will take the ball on Saturday evening, as the home side aims to tie the series.

As demoralizing as Friday’s 6-4 loss was, Servais is confident his ballclub will bounce back and compete his Houston. He said:

“We’re going to play these guys tough all year. It didn’t go our way tonight, but we’ll come back and get them tomorrow.”

The dubious call not withstanding, is it time to give Brash a break from the bullpen and send him down to Triple-A? This aside, what is your main takeaway from the Mariners’ 6-4 loss on Friday nigh? Let us know in the comments section below.

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