With seven scoreless innings, starter Hisashi Iwakuma kept the Mariners in line for their first four-game sweep in more than a year. But Houston greeted Charlie Furbush with consecutive doubles in the eighth and pinch hitter Brandon Barnes delivered a successful suicide squeeze as the Astros defeated Seattle 2-0 Sunday at Minute Maid Park.
The loss snapped the Mariners’ three-game winning streak and sent the Mariners 12 games below .500 (62-74).
Although Iwakuma delivered his 20th quality start, the Mariners couldn’t do anything of consequence against Houston’s rookie starter, Brett Olberholtzer. In limiting Seattle to four hits, none between the sixth and ninth innings, Olberholtzer kept the Mariners off balance by mixing his fastball and changeup. He threw first-pitch strikes to 26 of the 32 batters in the first complete-game shutout of his major league career.
Seattle’s hits were singles. The Mariners failed to produce an extra-base hit for the second consecutive game. The Mariners, thwarted in completing their first four-game road sweep since July 7-10, 2005 at Anaheim, have gone 17 innings without scoring a run.
After the Astros mainly flailed against Iwakuma, who scattered six hits, they wasted no time getting to Furbush. He allowed a leadoff double to Jose Altuve, and Jason Castro followed with another off the wall in right center that plated Altuve. That snapped the Seattle bullpen’s streak of 11.0 scoreless innings.
After Matt Dominguez sacrificed Castro to third, pinch hitter Barnes attempted a suicide squeeze, but fouled off the pitch. Undeterred, Barnes succeeded on the next try, scoring Castro. Barnes singled because Seattle had no one covering first base (Nick Franklin’s responsibility).
BATS: The four hits came from the top of the order. The Mariners had one runner in scoring position and stranded five.
ARMS: Iwakuma’s no-decision was his second in a row. He struck out seven, walked one and lowered his ERA to 2.92 . . . Former closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who joined the club early Sunday from AAA Tacoma, recorded one out in a late-game appearance.
QUOTES: “Their guy (Oberholtzer) was really good. He threw a lot of strikes and used all of his pitches. He could throw anything at any time. I was impressed” — Eric Wedge, on Houston starter Brett Olberholtzer
“Iwakuma was strong and he had something on the end of his pitches. He did his job” — Wedge.
“There’s not much you can do about that. But (Nick) Franklin has to cover first. It may have been the first time he’s ever been involved in squeeze like that, I don’t know” — Wedge.
NOTES: Catcher Mike Zunino, apparently mended from a hamate-bone break, will reportedly rejoin the Mariners in Kansas City Monday. He is expected to catch Felix Hernandez . . . During the Houston series, Seattle’s starters went 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA.
NEXT: The Mariners begin a four-game set with Kansas City at Royals Stadium Monday (11:10 a.m. first pitch). RHP Felix Hernandez (12-8, 2.97) will pitch opposite LHP Danny Duffy (2-0, 1.10). Hernandez, who lasted only 3.0 innings in his last start, is 1-4 with a 7.00 ERA over his last five outings.