Seattle Mariners

Mariners’ bullpen can’t hold lead, serves up 7 runs in loss to Astros

Nothing seems to sync up for the Seattle Mariners. When the starting pitching is efficient, the offense often doesn’t produce runs. When the starting pitching is off, the bats can’t do enough to catch up from early deficits. The shaky defense usually plays a part. And, even on nights those groups do harmonize, and the Mariners play a clean game, the bullpen often has trouble holding on.

The Mariners fell into the latter category Tuesday night at T-Mobile Park, dropping another lopsided 11-5 loss to the Astros, and extending another tiring losing streak to four games. It was the 14th time this season Seattle has allowed double-digit runs.

“We’ve got a lot of areas that have been a struggle at times,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It’s just one of those things. We’re in a funk right now.”

Making his first start in the majors since 2017, right-hander Andrew Moore did his part to keep Seattle (25-39) within reach of a win. Daniel Vogelbach then delivered in a big way as a pinch-hitter in the sixth, cranking a bases-clearing double off the wall in center that gave the Mariners a 5-4 lead.

But, none of it was enough. Seattle’s bullpen combined to allow seven runs in the final three innings, costing the Mariners another win as they continue to slog through a season that once started 13-2.

Moore pitched a competitive outing for the Mariners after being recalled from Double-A Arkansas earlier in the day. The former Mariners draft pick was traded to Tampa Bay last season in the Alex Colome and Denard Span deal, but never pitched a big-league game there.

He was designated for assignment twice this season by the Rays and San Francisco Giants, claimed off waivers by the Mariners on May 17, and sent to Arkansas. Before Tuesday, the Moore’s last start in the majors was two seasons ago with Seattle.

“It’s been a crazy start to the season, but in the three outings since I’ve been back with (Seattle’s organization), I made some adjustments getting back to some of the stuff I was doing in 2016 and 2017,” Moore said. “I’m still trying to get down that path, but I felt like I had good life on my ball today, good movement. ... It definitely felt great to be back out there.”

For as long as it’s been, Moore was more effective than many of Seattle’s regulars in the starting rotation as of late, despite allowing four earned runs on six hits across 4 2/3 innings. He struck out two and walked one, and was pulled after throwing 78 pitches.

But, Moore retired the first six batters in order before giving up solo homers to Tony Kemp in the third and Robinson Chirinos in the fourth. His only other mistakes came on back-to-back doubles to Derek Fisher and Alex Bregman to lead off the fifth. Moore left with two outs in the inning, trailing 3-1, and giving the Mariners more of a chance than they’ve had in some blowout losses during the homestand.

“I thought Andrew competed really well, like we’ve always seen him do in the past,” Servais said. “I thought he had good life on his fastball. … I thought Andrew gave us a really good effort. He was aggressive like he always is. I thought his changeup was pretty good. He pitches up in the zone with the fastball, and got a lot of early in count outs to keep things in check there. I thought we were in a pretty good spot.”

Seattle’s bullpen couldn’t limit the damage from there, though. Austin Adams gave up a third consecutive double to Michael Brantley after taking over in the fifth, which charged Moore with his fourth run allowed.

Vogelbach’s three-run double in the sixth got Moore off the hook for the loss. Mitch Haniger walked, Omar Narvaez singled, and Kyle Seager walked to load the bases with two outs ahead of him. Vogelbach hit in place of starter Tim Beckham, and didn’t miss, despite the Astros bringing in left-hander Reymin Guduan to face him. He missed a grand slam by about 2 feet.

“I knew they’d go to the lefty, and we just took our shot with Vogey, and Vogey knows the strike zone so well. … He felt good about it and put a great swing on it,” Servais said. “Big, big hit. We haven’t had many of those. To get a little momentum going, it was good to see in our dugout again.”

Mallex Smith, who singled to open the inning, and stole his 15th base of the season — which is tied for second in the majors — scratched across the first run of the sixth, scoring on a Narvaez single. Haniger scored Seattle’s only other run of the game on a solo homer in the third, pushing his season total to 15.

Brandon Brennan came on in relief to pitch the seventh, and allowed three quick runs in recording his second loss in four days. He issued a leadoff walk and back-to-back singles before recording an out in the inning, and a third run on a fielder’s choice gave the Astros a 7-5 lead.

Things didn’t get easier for Jesse Biddle in the eighth. The Astros logged four more runs against Biddle before Haniger made an athletic grab on a line drive in right field to record the first out of the inning, rapidly opening up an insurmountable six-run lead.

Both Brennan’s and Biddle’s innings started with leadoff walks.

Seager nearly connected on a two-run homer in the eighth, but Houston right fielder Josh Reddick made a leaping catch to bring the ball back over the wall.

Braden Bishop, who started in center field for the Mariners, left in the fifth inning after his trapezius locked up. He felt discomfort after catching a fly ball to open the fourth inning, and said he couldn’t stand up straight when he returned to the dugout at innings end.

“I came inside and it was a tough 45 minutes,” Bishop said. “It’s just very uncomfortable. The doctor was stumped, I was stumped. We just had no idea what it really was.”

Bishop said he was hit in the ribs several days ago, but he passed tests related to an injury that could have stemmed from that.

“It’s just a weird deal,” Bishop said. “I’ve never had it before. ... I’ve been hurt a lot, but that was different.”

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Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.