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.)
“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,