The Mariners' eight-game winning streak is over.
When I decided to take on tonight's recap assignment (my first ever Lookout Landing game recap, mind you), I typed out that sentence. All through my life, I've struggled with the opening sentence of virtually everything I've ever written, be it an essay or a story or something as insignificant as an email regarding someone's lunch plans. But then, at a far later stage in my life than I'd care to admit, I found Ernest Hemingway's advice on how to get anything started: write one true sentence ("write the truest sentence you know").
The Mariners' eight-game winning streak is over, which would've been technically true regardless of outcome. A win would've graduated the streak to a nine-game stretch, leaving behind a shell as the winning streak moved on to bigger and better things. Unfortunately, the streak is not over because of a win, but instead because of a loss: a hideous, 6-0 loss to the Houston Astros at Safeco Field on a beautiful Friday night.
Things went wrong from beginning to end. Felix Hernandez–The King, Fifi, The Pitcher That Gravity Forgot–continued his roller coaster season, getting tagged for six runs in 4.1 innings. The stuff was still as filthy as ever, but his command has gone completely haywire. The first bit of damage came in the second inning, when a leadoff walk to Colby Rasmus and an annoyingly perfect bunt by Marwin Gonzalez up the first base line put Felix in a two-on, no-out situation. A sac bunt by Jason Castro gave Felix a decent chance of getting out of the inning unscathed, but his very first pitch to Jake Marisnick was a 91 mph sinker that was left middle-in, which Marisnick proceeded to rip into left field for a two-run double.
The following inning, Jose Altuve would reach on a Ketel Marte error (his first of two on the night) and would come around to score on a Carlos Correa double. An inning later, Yulieski Gurriel drove home Marisnick with a single to left. An inning after that, Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez homered.
It was as ugly of an outing as we've seen from Felix this year, and one that feeds the belief that his starts are starting to become more and more of a roll of a die that features more negative outcomes than positives. This year, Felix is running a 4.49 xFIP and 4.72 FIP. In 2011, Blake Beavan posted a 4.45 xFIP and 4.46 FIP. We are living in a strange world.
In support of Felix, the offense managed just three hits (an infield single and two sharp grounders) against a guy who spells his name with far too many L's. The night can best be summarized by this Nelson Cruz at-bat in the second inning, in which he fouled off roughly eighty pitches that were middle-middle:
The blue dot was a lazy fly ball. It really was that kind of night for the offense against Collin McHugh. McHugh ended up tossing seven shutout innings before exiting with a pitch count just a pinch over 100 pitches.
If there was anything positive to take from this game, it was the performance of the bullpen. Dan Altavilla was great in relief of Hernandez, surrendering just one hit and striking out two in 1.2 innings. Vidal Nuno tossed a perfect inning. Arquimedes Caminero emerged from wherever the hell Scott Servais left him over the last two weeks to pitch 1.2 wildly effective (shutout) innings. Pat Venditte even struck out every single batter he faced. He faced one. It was one batter and he struck him out. He struck 'em all out. That is a true sentence that I know.
- Dan Vogelbach looked completely lost against McHugh, wildly flailing at pitch after pitch and finishing the night 0 for 3 with 3 strikeouts. This isn't the type of player he is and I'd trust he'll start to adjust, but with the team in the home stretch, it'll be interesting to see how long of a leash he'll have.
- At one point Kyle Seager tried to advance to second on a ball here: You'll notice Martin is giving him the stop sign. Seager was thrown out by a lot.
- Nori Aoki came inches away from gunning down Marisnick at the plate at one point. I'm not sure how I would've reacted to it had Aoki nailed him and I'm not sure I'll ever actually see it happen, but boy was that nearly incredibly thrilling.
The Mariners' eight-game winning streak is over. They'll look to start a new streak tomorrow when James Paxton takes the mound against Mike Fiers. First pitch is at 6:10 pm. This loss was brutal and did absolutely everything to remind us that the Astros are twenty-five distinct thorns in the Mariners' side, but I'm still feeling pretty good and I hope all of you are, too. The Mariners have five games left against these orange and navy-blue LEGO pieces strewn about their road to the playoffs. Grit your teeth, step on 'em, and take care of business.