On a night when the Seattle Mariners, out of necessity, trolled through much of their bullpen, the game turned on a slip-and-slide tumble by right fielder Brad Miller with the game tied in the seventh inning.
The season, really, should have ended Wednesday for the Mariners in this 7-6 loss to the Houston Astros at Safeco Field. This was a perfect metaphor for a season that saw spring hopes fade slowly into harsh disappointment.
It was 6-6 with one out in the seventh when Evan Gattis sent a fly to right field. It should either be caught or, maybe, fall for a single. But Miller lost his footing as he charged toward the ball.
The result was a triple. (Miller overthrew the relay man, but Gattis would likely have reached third in any event.)
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“Brad just slipped,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Those things happen. It’s very unfortunate. He had a bead on the ball.”
After Jonathan Villar replaced Gattis as a pinch-runner, the Mariners shortened their infield — which meant Colby Rasmus’ soft bloop against Danny Farquhar (1-7) landed beyond a retreating Ketel Marte from shortstop.
There was more, of course, including a brutal outing by Mariners reliever JC Ramirez after he inherited a 6-3 lead in the sixth inning.
Also, credit the Astros, fighting to reach the postseason as part of a remarkable turnaround, for overcoming deficits of 2-0 and 6-3. They now lead the Los Angeles Angels by one-half game for the final wild-card berth.
Tony Sipp (3-4) got the victory when Luke Gregerson pitched a scoreless ninth for his 31st save. The end came when James Jones, inserted as a pinch-runner, got doubled off first on a fly ball to center.
“Just got too far out,” Jones said. “With one out, I’m supposed to extend (the lead), but I got too aggressive.”
A fitting end.
For the Mariners, this was the seventh loss in eight games in a season that concludes this weekend with three required games against Oakland’s even more disappointing Athletics.
The Mariners had just surrendered a 2-0 lead when Houston scored three runs in the fifth when they muscled up a four-run answer in the bottom of the inning.
One-out singles by Jesus Sucre and Marte put runners at first and third before Kyle Seager jumped a high slider from Houston starter Scott Kazmir for a 409-foot homer to right-center field.
The Mariners led, 5-3.
Nelson Cruz followed with a similar drive to right-center for his 44th homer of the season — one behind Baltimore’s Chris Davis for the major-league lead.
When Robinson Cano lined a single to left, the Astros finally went to their bullpen for former Mariner Josh Fields, who ended the inning without further trouble.
The Mariners turned to Ramirez with a 6-3 lead in the sixth.
He was a disaster. First, Ramirez failed to handle a bunt by Carlos Gomez, which turned into single.
“I thought it was in my glove,” he said, “but it wasn’t. It was a good bunt, but I thought I should have got him.”
Next, Ramirez ignored Gomez, who stole second without a throw.
“I was trying to make some pitches,” Ramirez said, “and I didn’t want to give up a base hit. I took my time in my delivery, and I was too slow to the plate.”
Then came a walk to Luis Valbuena. Finally, Ramirez jumped ahead 0-2 on Chris Carter before putting a slider on a tee. Carter drove it 418 feet to left for a game-tying homer.
“With Gomez on second,” Ramirez said, “and he had just stolen a base, I was a little worried about him. I didn’t pay enough attention to the guy at the plate. I made a mistake and paid for it.”
In came Joe Beimel, who retired the next three hitters.
The night started when Tony Zych, pressed into a spot start, threw 39 pitches while working 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
Zych exited after George Springer reached second on an infield single and a Marte throwing error.
Mayckol Guaipe ended the third inning by striking out Carlos Correa and worked a scoreless fourth before it fell apart in the fifth.
First, Guaipe served up a leadoff homer to Valbuena.
After Carter walked, Jason Castro sent a twisting fly to left center just beyond a diving Shawn O’Malley. Carter initially appeared to make it to third, but the Mariners challenged.
A replay showed Carter came off the base while Seager applied the tag.
It was a brief reprieve.
Logan Kensing replaced Guaipe and served up a game-tying double to Jose Altuve, who stopped at third on Springer’s single to right.
Correa’s potential double-play grounder then tipped off Kensing’s glove, which sent it spinning away from Cano’s momentum and under his glove for an RBI single.
The Astros led, 3-2.
That all came after the Mariners opened the scoring in the second inning by capitalizing on Houston mistake. Cano lead off with a single, which extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
Mark Trumbo drew a one-out walk after getting second life when Valbuena dropped a foul pop near third. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third before Jesus Montero grounded out to short.
Another wild pitch scored Cano and moved Trumbo to third; it could have been a passed ball — it went right through Castro. After O’Malley walked, Sucre’s soft single into center made it 2-0.
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FRIDAY: Oakland (RHP Aaron Brooks: 2-4, 7.26 ERA) at Seattle (RHP Hisashi Iwakuma: 9-5, 3.67), 7:10 p.m., Root Sports, 1030-AM,