SEATTLE — It’s too early to panic, right?
The Mariners threw away a two-run lead in the eighth inning Tuesday night when Houston stung relievers Charlie Furbush and Danny Farquhar for five runs in rallying to a 6-3 victory at a chilly Safeco Field.
Jose Altuve delivered the killer blow with a three-run double against Farquhar, who took the loss in Monday’s series opener. Altuve had two earlier chances with the bases loaded but made the inning’s final out.
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“That was terribly located,” Farquhar said. “I got away with the first two. I was trying to go up and away, and I left it over the middle.”
This was a depressing collapse by the Mariners, who got an encouraging start from Taijuan Walker and built a 3-1 lead against Astros right-hander Collin McHugh through seven innings.
“It’s tough to lose it like this,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Anytime you lose games, when you think you should win, they’re always tough. This one stings a little bit.”
Furbush (0-1) inherited a two-run lead to start the eighth inning but quickly ran into trouble.
Pinch-hitter Robbie Grossman reached on an error by second baseman Robinson Cano, and Marwin Gonzalez followed with a single through the right side when Cano broke the wrong way.
“(Grossman’s grounder) was spinning and it came up,” Cano said. “I was surprised they gave an error on that one. What else can you say?”
Cano said he didn’t see Gonzalez’s ball off the bat “until it was halfway to second base.” By then, it was too late to recover.
“That was a rocket," Cano said, “but there are no excuses.”
The two misplays put runners at first and third with no outs.
Chris Carter drove another single up the middle, and the lead was down to 3-2. That also finished Furbush. In came Farquhar with no outs and runners at first and second.
Jed Lowrie batted for Colby Rasmus and walked, which loaded the bases. Jake Marisnick followed with a single into center, and the Astros were even at 3-3.
“Obviously, I didn’t get the first guy out,” Farquhar said. “That didn’t help. I couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
Up stepped Altuve, who was hitless in eight previous at-bats in the series and who had left the bases loaded by grounding into a force play in the fourth inning and lofting a routine fly to center in the sixth.
This time, Altuve lashed a drive down the left-field line that scored all three runs. (video link)
“We had a ton of opportunities early,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “Or it felt like we did, but we never had the breakthrough hit until Altuve had the double. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
“What a big inning for us, and a really good win on a tough night.”
For the Mariners, it was a disaster, which they completed by succumbing weakly over the final two innings against Houston relievers Pat Neshek and Chad Qualls.
McHugh (3-0) won his 10th straight decision over two years, which is just two victories shy of the club record set by Wade Miller in 2002. And the Mariners dropped to 5-9.
There were silver linings if you look hard.
Walker rebounded from two disastrous starts (video link) by limiting the Astros to one run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked four but matched a career high with eight strikeouts.
“I definitely don’t like the four walks,” he said, “but it was a start to build off.”
Cano had a pair of RBIs, and Brad Miller had a two-out RBI single. Dominic Leone and Carson Smith had strong outings in relief of Walker. Fernando Rodney had a three-strikeout ninth inning.
Nothing but footnotes. And maybe a foot closer to that panic button.
“You just keep playing,” designated hitter Nelson Cruz said. “We don’t have time to feel sorry about anything. Baseball can hit you hard some times. The only thing you can do is go back out there and battle.”