Seattle Mariners

Takeaways: Houston shows Mariners how high the bar is in AL West

Mariners manager Scott Servais, right, talks with umpire Angel Hernandez on Sunday after a call at home in favor of the Astros in the second inning.
Mariners manager Scott Servais, right, talks with umpire Angel Hernandez on Sunday after a call at home in favor of the Astros in the second inning. The Associated Press

- Certainly after a hot-hitting June, and buoyed by the knowledge that they are finally getting fully healthy, the Mariners have plenty to look forward to as the season shifts to the summer months.

But they have to find a way to close the performance gap between themselves and the A.L. West-leading Houston Astros.

The Astros beat Seattle, 8-2, on Sunday at Safeco Field. They have now won eight of the 11 games played this season.

Want a positive Mariners’ statistic from this three-game series? Seattle outscored its visitors, 17-16.

And it was easily the most competitive of the three series played this season. Catcher Mike Zunino went as far to call it “playoff caliber” baseball.

Three takeaways from Sunday’s loss:

***What more can Ariel Miranda do? It has been mentioned many times before — the left-hander wasn’t even slated to make Seattle’s opening day roster until a late injury.

At best, he was characterized as the team’s No. 5 starter.

But he continues to deliver time and time again.

It was one shaky fourth inning that did in Miranda against the Astros. He left two pitches up to George Springer and Yuli Gurriel that were both sent into orbit for home runs. And he gave up a third extra-base hit — Carlos Correa’s run-scoring double — that also nearly left the ballpark.

But he retired the last 11 hitters in a row in his seven-plus innings of work. Four of the five hits he gave up came in that one fateful inning.

“For the most part, he threw the ball well,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.

It was the sixth time this season Miranda has gone seven innings or longer. He is 4-2 in those games.

Astros Mariners Baseball
Seattle starting pitcher Ariel Miranda throws against Houston Sunday. Miranda gave up four runs in 7 1/3 innings pitched. Elaine Thompson The Associated Press

***Bearing bullpen arms: Arguably the biggest thing distinguishing these two teams right now are their bullpens.

Case in point: Sunday.

Michael Feliz, Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Luke Gregerson tossed seven scoreless innings of relief for the Astros — the biggest plus in Houston overcoming an early deficit.

Sandwiched in between scoreless stints by Nick Vincent and Dan Altavilla, left-hander James Pazos gave up four runs, and could not get out of the ninth inning.

Houston relievers attacked well with their breaking pitches. Feliz’s slider netted four strikeouts. Devenski has a devastating change-up that has dominated opposing hitters all season. Harris is also a viable late-inning option who knows how to pitch.

The Astros dropped their bullpen ERA to 3.91 after Sunday. They get strikeouts — 337 of them in 265 innings.

Seattle’s bullpen ERA rose to 4.43. The Mariners are not even averaging a strikeout per inning (247 strikeouts in 270 innings).

***Review ruckus: Servais has a way of showing his displeasure over something without getting carried away.

And it was obvious after Sunday that he is not pleased the team’s recent run of misfortune with official review calls.

We will never know what would have happened if Mitch Haniger was called safe at home plate in the third inning to give Seattle a 3-0 lead. Nelson Cruz was next to come up with a man in scoring position.

Instead, the initial call by home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale stood after the play was reviewed in New York — catcher Evan Gattis’ tag hit Haniger before he crossed the plate.

It was frankly a blown call. You look at it and tell me?

You don’t need to tell Servais.

“I am shocked it wasn’t overturned. It was pretty clear to me,” Servais said. “We’ve had a few of those lately that have been shocking.”