Tough-luck Astros look to rebound against Mariners (Apr 17, 2018)

Don’t expect to see the Houston Astros panic, even though their 2-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Monday at Safeco Field was their fifth defeat in their past six games and their vaunted offensive attack has been stymied for much of the first three weeks of the season.

Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1, 7.71 ERA) will start game two of the four-game series on Tuesday for the Astros while left-hander Ariel Miranda (0-0) was called up from Triple-A Tacoma and added to the Mariners’ 25-man roster to make his season debut.

It’s the first time Seattle has needed a fifth starter this season.

The Mariners continued their strong start, improving to 9-5 with their fifth win in their last six games. The Astros have lost three straight, falling to 10-7 and dropping into third place in the early American League West race behind the Angels (13-3) and Mariners.

Monday’s win was all about Seattle left-hander James Paxton, who surrendered a leadoff home run to the Astros’ George Springer but little else, leaving after six innings in which he allowed three hits and three walks against seven strikeouts.

The Mariners tied the game, 1-1, on Nelson Cruz’s third homer of the year in the fourth inning. Seattle took the lead on back-to-back doubles by David Freitas and Dee Gordon and in the sixth.

Edwin Diaz, the fourth Mariners pitcher, notched his seventh save for Seattle.

Houston left-hander Dallas Keuchel allowed two runs on six hits while pitching all eight innings for the Astros. He is still winless in three decisions this season despite a 3.52 ERA.

In the last 16 innings, the Astros’ starting pitchers have permitted three earned runs and yielded only nine hits. In return, they’ve received one run and four hits of backing.

The roster move to get Miranda the start on Tuesday will keep outfielder Ben Gamel in Tacoma for at least the time being. Seattle manager Scott Servais said on Monday that Gamel is healthy enough to return to the big league team, but is in a holding pattern because of the roster situation.

Gamel has already played five games with Modesto and four with Tacoma.

“Ben will play at least one more, maybe a couple more before we bring him back,” Servais told “He’s in a pretty good spot, ready to come back. We’re just trying to do the right things roster-wise, as much as anything. That also plays into it.”

McCullers has a 5-2 career record versus Seattle and carries a 2.96 ERA in nine games (all starts against the Mariners). In 2017, he was 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA in four starts against Seattle.

In his last trip to the mound, last Wednesday in Minnesota, McCullers tossed three scoreless innings before allowing eight runs in the fifth inning but did not factor into the Astros’ 9-8 loss.

McCullers has exited each of his first three starts without getting through a lineup for a third time. Fourteen hitters in their third plate appearance against him are slashing .769/.786/1.308.

“I’m not happy with the last result and kind of wearing the bullpen out and not going deep,” McCullers said. “But I tried something, and obviously, it didn’t fit me as a pitcher. I think it was better early than later on (in the season) that I realized that I have to stick to what I do.”

Miranda is 1-2 in five career starts against the Astros, with a 4.65 ERA in 31 2/3 innings pitched. That stat line includes a no-decision last September in which he gave up one run (and no hits) in six innings of work.