The Houston Astros ripped into an impaired Taijuan Walker for three home runs, including a pair of two-run bombs in the fourth inning, to hand the Mariners a 5-2 defeat Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park (box). A second consecutive loss, following a four-game sweep of Baltimore, dropped Seattle (43-41) two games behind the second-place Astros (45-39) in the AL West.
Five teams — Boston, Toronto, Detroit, Houston and Kansas City — are ahead of Seattle in the wild card standings.
After scoring 31 runs in their four-game sweep of the Orioles, the Mariners have tallied three in two games against Houston.
Walker is slated to make one more start before the All-Star break, but doing so seems doubtful after Walker said Tuesday night that pitching again before his foot problem is resolved makes no sense.
The Mariners took a 2-1 lead into the fourth on C Chris Iannetta’s fielder’s choice that scored 1B Dae-Ho Lee, then RF Nelson Cruz’s 22nd home run. But Walker couldn’t hold the lead, serving up two-run homers to Colby Rasmus and A.J. Reed.
The Mariners had a chance to get back in the game in the sixth with one out when 2B Robinson Cano singled and Cruz walked. But Lee flew out to left and Kyle Seager popped out to third.
Seager went 2-for-4 and his second-inning double extended his hitting streak to eight games . . . No other Mariner had a multi-hit game as Seattle collected seven hits, five off starter Dallas Keuchel. . . Dan Robertson, called up from AAA Tacoma Tuesday, started in left field and went 0-for-2 . . . The Mariners went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded six.
Walker, who departed after having what was described “irritation” in his right foot, allowed five earned runs on five hits in four innings with five strikeouts and one walk. He lasted 67 pitches. The three homers increased his season total to 18, seven shy of the 25 he allowed in 29 starts a year ago. Walker, 11-8 last year with a 4.56 ERA, is 4-7, 3.66 this season, including 1-5 on the road . . . Mike Montgomery had an effective outing replacing Walker — shutout ball for four innings with two hits.
“Taijuan still isn’t quite right with that foot. We’ll have to look at that again. He’s struggling, so we’ll have to re-evaluate. He’ll probably have to go see a specialist or something because he’s not right. He’s a big strong kid and he’s trying to get through it. We need to get back some of the momentum we had at home. Tonight, the home run ball got us.” — Manager Scott Servais
“After the second inning, I had no legs. I couldn’t drive off my foot. It’s frustrating, and I don’t know what I can do to make it better. It sucks. Nothing is sharp. It’s probably not best for me to go out there and pitch right now.” — Walker
Seattle fell to 14-10-4 in overall series, including 7-5-2 on the road . . . The Mariners are 15-21 against the AL West and 4-5 vs. Houston (2-4 at Minute Maid Park) . . . The Mariners Tuesday acquired OF Ryan Strausborger from the Texas Rangers in exchange for 2016 international slot compensation. Strausborger, 28, will report to AAA Tacoma after spending most of the season with AAA Round Rock, where he hit .288 with four home runs and 16 RBIs in 45 games. In seven minor league seasons, Strausborger has hit .258 with 46 home runs and 245 RBIs in 667 games. He was drafted by Texas in the 16th round of the 2010 draft out of Indiana State University.
The series concludes starting at 5:10 p.m., PT Wednesday. LHP Wade LeBlanc (1-0, 1.50) will throw for Seattle opposite RHP Mike Fiers (6-3, 4.12). The Mariners begin a four-game set at Kansas City Thursday that will take the club to the All-Star break.
The silver lining to the Walker injury cloud, is now the team knows whaty to do with LeBlanc.