No more streaks.
For the Houston Astros’ Gerrit Cole, he was trying to become the first pitcher in major league history to start a season with at least 10 strikeouts in four consecutive starts.
He had already joined Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers to have at least 11 strikeouts in their first three starts to a season.
Cole struck out five, but that didn’t much matter.
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Not with the Seattle Mariners’ Mike Leake’s run of eight consecutive starts with at least five innings pitched and no more than three earned runs ending.
Leake was tossing one of his best starts to date since he joined the Mariners last season – then the wheels fell off in the seventh inning in their 7-1 loss to the Astros on Wednesday at Safeco Field.
It was tied 1-1 entering that frame.
“I thought that was the best stuff from Mike Leake all year,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I thought he was really on top of his game.
“Tight ball game. We’ve been in a few of these here recently – certainly against the Astros.”
But the Astros have owned the Mariners’ number. The reigning World Series champions shut down the Mariners’ potent offense the past three games and in that seventh inning got their bats rolling to their eighth win against Seattle in their past nine meetings with each other.
The only other team with a better winning percentage at Safeco Field than the Astros (33-19) is the Yankees (52-29).
“They got extra-base hit power up and down their lineup,” Servais said. “Whenyou do get the ball up or make mistakes they do take advantage of it. When you’re playing those one-run tight games as you go along your margin for error is so small. A walk here, a misplay there, a bad pitch in the wrong spot and you look up and you’re down a couple of runs. That’s what happened tonight.”
Yet Leake was dealing through six innings he had seven strikeouts, two starts after having no Ks.
Then what seemed like a fairly harmless leadoff walk to the Astros’ Josh Reddick was much more harrowing. Yuli Gurriel followed with a ground-rule double and Marwin Gonzales drove them both home on an RBI single to center for a 3-1 Astros lead.
“That one, that one daggered me in the back of the head a little bit,” Leake said of the leadoff walk. “You don’t want leadoff walks in that situation.”
Brian McCann, who hit the two-run go-ahead home run in the Astros’ 4-1 win on Tuesday, followed with a double off of hard-charging Dee Gordon’s glove in the gap in right-center.
That ended Mike Leake’s day and Nick Vincent entered.
Another run scored when some confusion between Robinson Cano and Mitch Haniger led to Haniger’s error on a soft pop fly off Evan Gattis’ bat.
“I should have had it,” Haniger said. “I hesitated and I should have come in hard and made the catch.”
What ensued was George Springer, Jose Altuve (the reigning American League MVP) and Carlos Correa rocking three consecutive hits to make it 7-1.
POTENT PITCHERS: Leake’s final line would be six innings having allowed seven hits, five runs a walk with seven strikeouts on 84 pitches. He also picked up his 1,000th career strikeout.
Take away what happened in the start of that seventh inning and his start was excellent. The Astros got their walk, three of their hits and four of their runs off of him without Leake collecting an out that frame.
But you can’t take away innings.
“I felt like I had a ton of bite on my pitches tonight,” Leake said. “Unfortunately it only lasted six innings. But it will be fun to grow from that one.”
Leake was in line to continue his streak of eight consecutive starts going at least five innings allowing three runs or fewer. Only the Indians’ Corey Kluber (16) and the Astros’ Charlie Morton (nine) had active streaks longer than Leake’s.
Oh, and the Astros will pitch Morton on Thursday in the series finale, with the Astros now having a 2-1 series advantage. That will come after Dallas Keuchel held the Mariners to two runs in eight innings (in a loss), and Lance McCullers Jr. tied a career-high with 11 strikeouts in seven innings in the Mariners’ loss on Tuesday.
At least the Mariners won’t have to face Justin Verlander.
The Astros have gone six consecutive games with their starting pitcher throwing at least six innings and allowing two earned runs or fewer. And five of their past six starters have gone at least seven innings. So good luck getting to their bullpen.
OFFENSE?: The Mariners lineup had been cruising through a four-game win streak, having scored at least four runs in each of them and at least seven in three of them.
But now they’ve lost three of their past four games behind and offense that has scored five runs. They won 2-1 on Monday because James Paxton was dealing.
“We have been playing good ball,” Servais said. “Our bats have cooled off but you have to give some credit to their pitching staff and how they attacked us. Hopefully we’ll get after it tomorrow and split the series and go on the road.”
Some of the Mariners who have struggled the past four games?
Nelson Cruz is 1-for-14, and still appearing hampered by his ankle and quad injuries. Kyle Seager is 1-for-13 and Mitch Haniger is 1-for-13.
“Those guys are good over there, but I like our lineup,” Haniger said. “I like our team. Hitting is always up and down. Just got to get it going tomorrow and come out swinging.”
SPEED GAME: Ben Gamel, in his first start of the season after being activated off the disabled list earlier Wednesday, drew an eight-pitch walk in his first at-bat, then stole second base before David Freitas sent a two-out single to right field.
Gamel charged hard around third with third-base coach Scott Brosius waving him in, but problem: the Astros have Josh Reddick’s arm in right field. And he was drawn in.
Gamel is fast. But Reddick’s throw beat him and catcher Brian McCann had an even better pick off a quick hop near the plate before tagging Gamel for the out.
“Two outs, trying to scratch a run – they made a nice play,” Servais said. “Reddick can throw and the catcher made a very good play. Picked the ball on a sweep tag on Gamel at the plate. But I had no issues at all. We were trying to push the envelope and they made a play.”
But the Mariners answered. Thanks to more speed.
Gordon laid a bunt single down the third-base line and then advanced to second when Gerrit Cole threw the ball over Yuli Gurriel’s head, though it looked like Gordon might have turned his ankle turning for second.
He advanced to third on Jean Segura’s ground out. Even though the ground out was to Carlos Correa at shortstop. And Robinson Cano followed with a single up the middle on the Astros’ drawn-in infield to tie the game.
Cano has reached base in all but one game so far.
Haniger also stole a base. The Astros had allowed three stolen bases this season before the Mariners had three on Wednesday thanks to Cole’s slow delivery and maybe in part to catcher Brian McCann being hit by a pitch on his hand the night before.
PLAY OF THE GAME: This one was almost a player of the game the other way.
Instead it worked out for the Astros.
McCann shot a line drive deep into the gap in right-center and Dee Gordon might be one of the few players fast enough to have tracked it down.
But the ball grazed off his glove as Gordon was about to break the sound barrier and it bounced to the wall as McCann stood up for a double.
That helped compound that rough seventh inning. Especially when Mitch Haniger’s error on a soft fly ball one batter later allowed another run to score for a 4-1 lead. Instead of two outs, the Astros rolled to a six-run seventh inning.
Top pitcher:Gerrit Cole didn’t get an MLB-record fourth consecutive game with at least 10 strikeouts. But he was plenty efficient.
Cole, who was acquired this offseason from the Pirates, finished his seven innings pitched with five hits, one run (unearned after his own throwing error) with five strikeouts and two walks.
Cole’s 36 strikeouts through his first three starts with the Astros broke their club record for most strikeouts by a pitcher in his first three games with the team. It was previously held by Randy Johnson (Yes, the former Mariners briefly played for the Astros, making 11 starts for them in 1998 when Seattle traded him there for Freddy Garcia, John Halama and Carlos Guillen).
Top hitter:Brian McCann went 2-for-4 with two doubles a day after his go-ahead two-run home run. He also had the big play at the plate to pick Josh Reddick’s throw and tag out Ben Gamel.
“Probably not until I’m done playing. I don’t look at numbers much until it’s all said and done.”
That was Mike Leake on reflecting about picking up his 1,000th career strikeout.