The ground, skydivers will tell you, was coming up fast — a ninth consecutive loss, including three at home to the beagle-faced Houston Astros. The bond with the fan base was so tattered that only a few scattered boos among the 13,739 at Safeco Wednesday afternoon greeted the ritual moments of Mariners futility. They didn’t care enough to bitch.
Then the least among the Mariners — 3B Kyle Seager, he of the .156 average — found the ripcord.
Not only was the home run the first of his season, it was a booming clout of the walk-off, three-run kind. It ended emphatically his slump and the losing streak, which because of its early arrival, sucked a lot of air from the minimal expectations for this team.
Anytime you see the ball hit the ground (beyond the fence), it’s a confidence booster,” said Seager, barely managing a half-smile, knowing the ditch in which the Mariners remain. “Everything is so magnified at the beginning of the year. Nobody was really stressing.
“We know what we have here.”
Whether the 5-3 triumph will be seen as a pause or a turn awaits the weekend series with Texas and beyond. But the day did seem to be something of a pivot point for Seager. His two-run homer in the seventh inning ended another weak Seattle offensive effort, and thus accounted for all the Mariners runs.
Up until Seager’s first-pitch swing in the ninth with two on and one out against former Mariners No. 1 draft pick Josh Fields, the Mariners did not have a lead for any of the 26 innings of the series against the worst team in the American League (7-15). It also marked the first time in five games that the Mariners had more than two runs.
And they made Houston’s obscure trio of young starting pitchers — Dallas Keuchel (51), Collin McHugh (8) and Wednesday’s Jerred Cosart (16) had 81 combined games of MLB experience — look like John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.
Among all the lameness that has spoiled the series and the Mariners’ overall start, Seager’s was perhaps the most puzzling. A two-time club MVP, Seager in spring was about the only one among the younger, farm-raised position players to be considered major-league average.
But entering the game he had only 10 hits, including four doubles, two RBIs and no home runs. Nearly as bad as his .156 average were four uncharacteristic errors.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said it was less a physical impediment than a mental one.
“Over-thinking was more a part of it,” he said. “I learned a long time ago it was best to keep it simple — see ball, hit ball.”
Seager owned up to most of that, admitting that his compulsion for self-analysis gets in his way.
“I’m the kind of guy who always tinkers, watching a lot of film and breaking things down,” he said. “That can hurt you in some aspects; when you over-think it. Sometimes you need to relax and play the game.
“You can watch as much film as you want, but if you aren’t out there playing, you’re not going to have success.”
The other noteworthy feat was starter Chris Young going seven innings and giving up only two runs despite five walks and 113 pitches. It was his first outing of seven-plus since Aug. 21, 2012.
“My rhythm and timing were really bad in the first three innings,” he said. “But in the fourth inning, I found it.
“I can’t say enough about Seegs. He’s kept battling.”
Seager found his rhythm, too, just before the ground caught him and the Mariners flush.
Seager had the first walk-off homer by a Mariner since Kendrys Morales took Oakland’s Grant Belfour deep June 23 . . . Nick Franklin drew his first major league start in right field. “I’m trying to get a spark,” McClendon said prior to the game. “He’s a bat, and hopefully, he’ll go out and get three or four hits today, score a couple and knock in three. Then he’ll be a heckuva right fielder.” Franklin was 1-for-3, giving him two hits in 16 at-bats since his call-up. After the game Franklin tweeted that he was heading to Las Vegas, presumably meaning that he was being sent to join AAA Tacoma on the road — or taking his day off very seriously . . . McClendon has just about had it with Erasmo Ramirez as a starter. Asked if Ramirez’s four straight poor outings will make for a change in the rotation, he said, “I would say that’s a fair assessment, yeah. I’m not sure what we’re going to do as of right now, but yeah.” . . . One potential solution is the return of injured starter Hisashi Iwakuma, who is scheduled for a rehab start Sunday at AAA Tacoma. If all goes well, he could return on the team’s 10-game road trip. With off-days Thursday and Monday, the Mariners could slide around needing to fill Ramirez’s slot immediately . . . Abraham Almonte added two more to his league-leading total of 33 strikeouts . . . The Mariners entered the game 28th in MLB with a team .220 batting average. The Astros were 30th at .200.