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Mariners do not defeat Astros of Houston, their own tomfoolery in 6-2 loss

The Astros beat the Mariners on Sunday. It wasn't bad, but it was all too familiar.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

On one hand, it could have put you under the table. The last time you saw the Astros on your television, they were torturing Felix Hernandez and then tossing wiffle balls over the fence like your drunk uncle ruining family softball night while making your little cousin cry. 8-game lead, top of the division, blinding orange shirts, that stupid SI cover. Two consecutive series sweeps. That feeling in the pit of your stomach that won't go away.

I mean, it could have driven you to the brink to watch the Astros blop two dingers into the Safeco bleachers. It could have been responsible for the chunks of hair in your hands while J.A. Happ was having trouble finding the edges of the plate, giving the Astros one in the first, one in the second, and one in the fifth. It could have been the thing that finally got you to start reading about the Seahawks again after Tom Wilhelmsen slowly trotted out to the pitching mound, scuffed off a baseball, and then traveled back to the plate in order to hand it to George Springer for deposit out of the field of play.

To be honest, I have no idea what you actually felt while watching this game, because you're you and I'm me. But what I do know is that this weekend could have gone a whole lot worse than it did--for despite losing 6-2 to the Astros this afternoon, the Mariners still managed to scrape out a series win against the division leader, very possibly saving their season in the process.

But on the other hand, it was hard not to feel at least a little greedy while the Mariners edged toward a sweep early in the first inning today. Because while this whole thing could have gone a lot worse, the sad truth is that the Mariners probably should have won this here baseball game, even without one terrifying Jeremy Hernandez on the mound. Despite the fact that Happ ran into a bit of trouble early in the first following a speedy George Springer scoring from second on an Evan Gattis single, the Astros sent out their own version of Roenis Elias to the mound, and he promptly threw 43 pitches in the firs, blowing the lead his team had just handed him and entering the second inning already halfway to his likely pitch count on the afternoon.

Yes, Astros starter Vincent Velasquez was pitching in his third game after skipping AAA this spring, and while he had some remarkable success in his first two starts, it all came crashing down this afternoon with fancy sequences like this:




and this:


What you are looking at are at-bats by Logan Morrison, Mark Trumbo, and Seth Smith, each of whom did not reach base but each of whom forced Velasquez to funnel some of that brow sweat into a container and sell it on the street below cost. And to be honest, you kind of have to be reminded of Elias here, just a little bit--besides the story, you have a young arm that is clearly capable of something exciting, but one which often has trouble keeping the lid screwed on tight enough to keep his pitches out of the opposing batter's box. But unlike Elias, Velasquez was primarily relying on his fastball and curve here, and instead of forcing him to dig around to find a pitch that was on, the Mariners simply made him pay for being off altogether.

All of which is reason to feel excited, and wonder if Edgar is fixing all this simply by putting his hat on a little crooked and whispering sweet nothings into the ear of Mike Zunino all day. And yet, we are here talking about a team that went 5-30 with RISP this weekend. That's the same team that was capable of pulling off each of these above images, loading the bases and getting Velasquez into deep trouble and then ending the inning after scoring.................a single run. And by the time the second rolled around, the Astros' rookie was back to form and dealing with yet another manifestation of an inept plan to put baseballs into the outfield by a team that oh man, I'm tired of coming up with metaphors so I'm just going to say they suck.

The Astros were able to slowly grind a few more runs out against Happ, but the M's lefty kept the damage to three--easily manageable and if anything, perfectly reasonable against an oddly decent ballclub. But while the bats continued to make Velasquez work deep into counts, finally getting to the pen in the fourth inning, they were unable to actually sustain anything worthwhile all afternoon. Despite a random bloop single by Ack while pinch-hitting for Jesus Sucre at the end of the game, the entire bottom of the order went hitless on the day, only watching as Brad Miller drew a walk against a fatigued Velasquez who was pulled only a second afterwards.

And that was the sad version of the Mariners we got today. It would have almost all been easier had they been one-hit or torn a new one like last Sunday, at least marching towards inevitability in a manner that will bring some real results next season. Instead, we got a double from Seth Smith here, a sac fly from Robinson Cano there, and ground outs, oh the ground outs. Ohhhhhhhhh, the ground outs.

All of which probably sounds a lot worse than it really was. This was a respectable loss, and the game could have easily gone either way until Tom came in during the seventh to throw it all away with what will hopefully be just an aberration and not one of these growing trends that always seem to hover around him like his own personal Navi. Here he is lucking into a grounder from Carlos Correa:


To be fair, the game plan on Correa is to pitch him low on everything, and I mean everything. 84% of all the pitches Correa has seen in his short career have been below the strike zone, and yet he's still only walked in 2 of 58. Tom handled the scouting approach well, and didn't dig too deep of a hole despite needing nine pitches to get the out. It worked.

Now here he is walking Chris Carter on five pitches:

chris walk

Tom is once again sticking to the scouting report, and handling it well. The nebulous bubble around pitches 1, 2, and 3 are where Carter sees nearly 13% of all the pitches he receives, a spot that earns him a .067 batting average on everything hit out if it. But despite having an astronomical 34.7% strikeout rate, Carter came up as a product of Billy Beane, and he in fact, does know how to take a walk. Tom could have probably been a little more precise with his fastball location here (I'm looking at you, pitch number five), but the true failure here was a gamble on approach. And by the time Colby Rasmus put Carter on home plate with a dinger moments later, it bit only twice as hard. Only better when the game finally left your television screen and you went outside and did something else with your time.

So yes, this whole thing could have been a lot worse, and it could have been a lot better. But the reality is that the Mariners didn't sleep the afternoon away. This loss was a perfectly acceptable one that any good team is capable of slinging out now and then. The problem, however, is when "now and then" turns into "now and then, and then, and then, and then." A series win against the Astros this weekend is exactly what the Mariners needed to keep their playoff hopes intact--but thirty-or-so games just like this have been exactly what's threatening it. An ocean of mediocrity. Stumbling to the finish line. The Houston Astros. And if all that doesn't take you to the brink, I don't know what will.