Seattle Mariners

Mariners looks sluggish in All-Star break return

Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa slides into home to score on a wild pitch by Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton, right, during the fifth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 15, 2016, in Seattle.
Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa slides into home to score on a wild pitch by Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton, right, during the fifth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 15, 2016, in Seattle. The Associated Press

That kick-start the Mariners were seeking Friday when they returned from a four-day break for the All-Star Game turned instead into a kick in the pants. Their pants.

Houston opened the game with a homer by George Springer against James Paxton and struck for five more runs in the fifth inning in rolling to a 7-3 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field.

The Astros built a 6-0 lead before the Mariners stirred to life.

It’s not as if the Mariners don’t know this, but they’ve now lost five in a row to the Astros, which is a tough way to make up ground in the American League West Division race.

Paxton (2-4) gave up six runs in five innings, along with three costly wild pitches, while Houston starter Doug Fister, a one-time Mariner, allowed three runs in five innings before the Astros turned to their bullpen.

Marwin Gonzalez’s two-out homer in the seventh inning against Tom Wilhelmsen extended the Astros lead to 7-3.

Michael Feliz, Ken Giles, Luke Gregerson and Chris Devenski closed out the victory by each pitching a scoreless inning.

The loss dropped the Mariners back to 45-45 and kept them 8 1/2 games behind first-place Texas.

It didn’t start well.

The Mariners opened their post-break schedule with Paxton serving up that leadoff homer to Springer. It was still 1-0 when Houston opened the third inning with singles by Jake Marisnick and Jason Castro.

Springer then hit a potential double-play grounder to short, but Ketel Marte bobbled the ball and settled for a force at second. Paxton escaped when Marwin Gonzalez hit into a third-second-first (5-4-3) double play.

Marte’s two-out drive in the third over the head of Houston center fielder Carlos Gomez turned into an out at third when Gomez made a phenomenal throw from deep center. Marte also suffered a sprained right ankle on the play. Club officials characterized Marte’s status as day-to-day.

The Astros opened the fourth inning with singles by Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa but, again, Paxton got a double-play grounder and worked out of the threat.

Everything changed in the fifth.

Instead of double plays, Houston opened the inning with doubles from Evan Gattis and Marisnick, which pushed the lead to 2-0. Marisnick moved to third on Castro’s grounder to first.

Shawn O’Malley, who replaced Marte, saved a run by throwing out Marisnick at the plate after fielding Springer’s grounder before everything fell apart for Paxton and Seattle.the Mariners.

After a single, a wild pitch and an intentional walk loaded the bases, another wild pitch scored Springer before Correa drove a two-run double into the left-center gap.

A two-base wild pitch then scored Correa from second. That quickly, the Mariners were in a 6-0 hole.

But Fister, after rolling through four innings, found trouble in the Mariners’ fifth. Dae-Ho Lee’s one-out double ignited a three-run answer, which included a two-run double by O’Malley.

The Mariners even got the tying run to the plate with two outs, but Fister retired Robinson Cano on a squibber back to the mound.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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