Sidelined for nearly two months, Felix Hernandez made a successful return to Seattle’s rotation. C Mike Zunino did something only seven other players in club history had done. The Mariners (39-39) ran their winning streak to a season-high six games. Then the reality of the 2017 campaign became evident Sunday with an 8-2 loss to the Houston Astros at Safeco Field (box):
Monday (Mariners 6, Tigers 2): Zunino hit two home runs, both two-run shots. The first snapped a tie at 2 in the sixth and carried over the bullpen in left. The second came in the eighth, a blast to center. LF Guillermo Heredia also hit a two-run homer.
Tuesday (Mariners 5, Tigers 4): 3B Kyle Seager hit a walk-off double, a one-hop shot off the right field wall, in the 10th inning. Seager’s winner came after Seattle missed opportunities in the eighth and ninth innings with runners in scoring position.
Wednesday (Mariners 7, Tigers 5): CF Jarrod Dyson’s bunt single broke up Justin Verlander’s bid for a perfect game in the sixth and sparked the Mariners to a comeback win. Seattle won its fourth in a row.
Thursday (Mariners 9, Tigers 6): 2B Robinson Cano hit a grand slam and a two-run homer, rookie Andrew Moore pitched seven effective innings to win his big league debut, and for a fifth consecutive victory. Seattle (38-37) moved past .500 for the first time in 2017.
Friday (Mariners 13, Astros 3): Hernandez threw six solid innings in his first start since late April and Zunino and RF Ben Gamel homered. The win made for the first six-game streak since Sept. 7-14.
Saturday (Astros, 5, Mariners 2): Lance McCullers Jr. came off the disabled list and pitched into the sixth inning (allowed one run on four hits), RF Josh Reddick homered and C Brian McCann contributed a three-run double.
Sunday (Astros 8, Mariners 2): George Springer, Yuli Gurriel and Evan Gattis hit long home runs (Springer’s traveled an estimated 456 feet) and the Astros wrapped up a winning road trip (6-1) while improving to 52-25, the top record in baseball. The Mariners fell to 39-39.
After failing to break .500 three times (17-17, 30-30 and 31-31) in the season’s first two-plus months, the Mariners reached 39-37 and second in the AL West. The glee didn’t last long as Seattle dropped two out of three to the Astros. The Mariners are only two out in the wild card race.
Better for the Mariners: Hernandez is back, as is leadoff hitter SS Jean Segura. Also, Seattle plays only three of its next 12, all before the All-Star break, away from Safeco Field, where the Mariners are 25-15. Seattle’s f0ur foes over that stretch — Phillies, Angels, Royals, Athletics — are all either way below or hovering around .500.
Even if Hernandez (3-2) is a couple of years past his prime, he’s an upgrade over Yovani Gallardo (3-7, 6.06), now in the bullpen. In his return to the rotation, Hernandez wasn’t great, allowing three earned runs on eight hits in six innings, but he mesmerized the King’s Court by fanning eight while giving up one walk and pitching out of the only jam he faced.
Innings of the week
Tigers 6th Monday: With the score 2-2, the Tigers loaded the bases with one out against reliever Steve Cishek. But Cishek escaped with strikeouts of Mikie Mahtook and Andrew Romine.
Mariners 10th Tuesday: After DH Nelson Cruz walked on a 3-2 pitch from Justin Wilson to open the inning, SS Tyler Smith came on as a pinch runner and reached second on a wild pitch. Seager turned on a fastball and lined it over the head of RF J.D. Martinez, allowing Smith to score easily, giving Seattle its fourth walk-off win of the season.
Mariners 7th Thursday: Cano’s slam off Francisco Rodriguez, his 13th homer of the season, put the Mariners up 9-3, enough of a cushion for Moore to win his major league debut.
Mariners 3rd Friday: A six-run outburst blew away the Astros. 1B Danny Valencia’s two-run single skipped past the diving attempt of 3B Alex Bregman. Two batters later, Zunino hit a three-run shot, his 10th homer.
Good week/bad week
Good: Gamel produced three multi-hit games, drove in five runs, had a home run and ran his hitting streak to 16 games before going 0-for-4 Saturday. During the streak, Gamel hit .444 with 17 runs, seven doubles, two homers and eight RBIs (Gamel didn’t play Sunday due to a groin issue). Bad: Turn back the clock night Saturday had the Astros in their 1977 uniforms that had brown and orange horizontal stripes around the middle. Every player appeared to be at least 300 pounds.
Not in the box score
- Zunino, with a pair of homers Monday against Detroit and a three-run bomb against Houston Friday, had eight RBIs, giving him 30 for June. The club record for any month is 33 by Edgar Martinez and Mike Blowers in August 1995 and Jay Buhner in September 1995. Only seven players besides Zunino drove in 30 runs in a calendar month — Martinez, Blowers, Buhner, Ken Griffey Jr., Raul Ibanez, Adrian Beltre and Alex Rodriguez.
- In Seattle’s win Tuesday, Gamel had the best at-bat of the week in the seventh against reliever Daniel Strumpf. Gamel fell behind 0-2, fouled off four consecutive pitches at 2-2 and on the ninth Strumpf offering, lined his third homer. Gamel was 3-for-5, lifting his average to .351.
- When the Mariners rallied from a 4-0 deficit to win Wednesday, it marked the third time this season that the Mariners had won a game after trailing by four or more runs (most recent May 9 vs. Philadelphia).
- When Houston defeated the A’s 12-9 Thursday, it became the first team in the majors to reach 50 wins. Since 2000, only three teams hit the 50-win mark before recording their 25th loss: the 2001 Mariners (50-14), 2005 White Sox (50-22), and 2015 Cardinals (50-24).
- When the Mariners completed a four-game sweep of Detroit Thursday, it marked the first such sweep of the Tigers since Aug. 7-9, 1998.
- Moore, a 23-year-old right hander out of Oregon State, not only became the 16th pitcher to record a win for the Mariners in 2017, but also the 13th Seattle pitcher in club annals to win his debut game as a starter. Most recent: James Paxton Sept. 7, 2013 vs. Tampa Bay at Safeco Field.
- In addition to scoring six runs in the third inning Friday against the Astros, the Mariners added three more in the seventh, all scoring on wild pitches from Houston’s James Hoyt. Two scored on one play as Brian McCann struggled to locate the ball, allowing Valencia and Dyson to score. Pinch-runner Taylor Motter scored later in the inning on another spiked pitch.
- Valencia went 4-for-5 and drove in two runs Friday. That marked the fourth time this season Valencia has had at least four hits in a game, tying him with Mookie Betts and David Peralta for most in the majors. It also matched the total of four-hit games Valencia had in his 656-game career entering the 2017 season. The most recent Seattle player with at least four, four-hit games in a season prior to the All-Star break was Ichiro in 2006 (five).
- In the top of the third Saturday, Reddick hit a two-run homer. In the seventh, Reddick reached first on interference by C Carlos Ruiz. According to Elias, the only other player who has homered and reached on catcher interference in the same game this season was Reddick’s teammate, Springer, who also did it against the Mariners on Opening Day.
- The Mariners did not hit a home run in their 5-2 loss to Houston Saturday, snapping a season-high streak of eight consecutive games with at least one long ball.
“To me, it’s trust the routine and trust the process. I’m in the cage trying to do the same routine every day. Trying to be as disciplined as I can in batting practice, driving the ball the other way, and it’s paid off. It’s not an easy game.” – Zunino, after hitting two home runs against Detroit Monday
“I’ve been feeling pretty good. Sometimes you’re feeling good and don’t get many hits. Certainly doubles are good. I like those.” — Seager, after hitting a 10th-inning, walk-off double Tuesday
“I was trying to get something going. (Verlander) was having a perfect game on us. I’m not just going to keep going up there hacking at him. I know how our matchups have been in the past. He always wins the battle, so I had to just try to play my game and I was able to get down a good bunt.”– Dyson
“That was unbelievable. It felt like I blinked and it was over. It absolutely flew by. That was pretty special, just the way we kind of took that last punch where they started coming back.” – Moore
“Oh my gosh, it’s a blast playing behind that guy. The atmosphere and just everything he brings to the table, no doubt it’s a boost. It’s huge having Felix back,” – Rookie OF Ben Gamel
“It feels good. King’s Court was unbelievable. The crowd was amazing. And the guys did a great job putting a lot of runs on the board. This lineup is pretty scary. It’s good to see.” – Hernandez
Monday: LHP Dillon Overton, designated for assignment June 18, was claimed off waivers by San Diego.
Wednesday: Selected Moore from AAA Tacoma, optioned RHP Christian Bergman to the Rainiers, designated RHP Tyler Cloyd for assignment. Activated Segura from a rehab assignment with Tacoma, optioned Smith to Tacoma.
Thursday: Outrighted Cloyd, who made one appearance with the Mariners, to Tacoma.
Friday: Activated Hernandez, optioned Moore to Tacoma.
After a day off Monday, the first since June 5, the Mariners host Philadelphia in a two-game set Tuesday (Paxton vs. RHP Aaron Nola) and Wednesday. After taking Thursday off, they travel to Anaheim for a weekend series with the Angels. The Mariners return to Safeco Field for seven games starting July 3 that will take them to the All-Star break.