SEATTLE — At some point, presumably, the Mariners’ vaunted rotation is going to perform to expectations. Until then, it figures to be one wild ride after another.
Monday’s ride ended in a 7-5 loss to the Houston Astros when Luis Valbuena’s second homer of the night provided the winning margin in a back-and-forth battle at Safeco Field.
Valbuena’s game-winner came in the eighth inning against reliever Danny Farquhar and broke a 5-5 tie. The Astros nicked Farquhar, 0-2, for another run later in the inning.
“It was a cutter away,” Farquhar said. “I was trying to backdoor a cutter, and it just came back over the middle. Most of the time, you can get away with a cutter. Not that one.”
And, no, the bullpen hasn’t performed to last season’s lockdown form in the season’s first two-plus weeks.
But the Mariners’ blueprint shows scoring five runs for Hisashi Iwakuma should be good enough. And for his second straight start…it wasn’t.
“He has not been sharp,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “The ball was up again tonight. We’ve got to figure out a way to get him down in the zone. (His) fastball command just had not been good.
“He threw a couple of fastballs that just ran back to the middle of the plate, and they were up. Usually, that’s a disaster.”
The Mariners have now scored 31 runs in the six combined starts by James Paxton and Iwakuma, their No. 2 and No. 3 starters, and have won just one of those games.
That one victory came Sunday when, after Paxton yielded seven runs in 2 2/3 innings, the Mariners stormed back for a stirring 11-10 victory over Texas.
“Obviously, when you don’t pitch well,” McClendon said, “that’s a reason to be concerned. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned.
“We’ve got to get it straightened out because we’re much better than what we’ve shown to this point. When you score five runs in a game, you should win the ballgame.”
On Monday, the Mariners overcame three separate one-run deficits behind Iwakuma and staked him to a 5-3 lead entering the sixth inning. Iwakuma and the bullpen couldn’t hold it.
And the Mariners are now 5-8.
Iwakuma labored through 5 1/3 innings before handing a 5-3 lead to Yoervis Medina with a runner on second base.
The runner came around when Evan Gattis’ grounder skipped through Gold Glove third baseman Kyle Seager for an error. Jed Lowrie fouled off five 1-2 pitches before pulling an RBI single to right.
That meant a no-decision for Iwakuma, whose final line showed four runs on five hits with three strikeouts and no walks. His ERA through three starts is 6.61.
“I actually feel pretty good on the mound,” Iwakuma said. “Even today, I felt like my stuff was working. It’s just some of the pitches that were up in the zone, they didn’t miss.”
It remained 5-5 until Valbuena’s homer against Farquhar.
Astros lefty Tony Sipp, 1-0, pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in getting the victory. He stranded two inherited runners in the seventh before working a one-two-three eighth.
Luke Gregerson pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his third save.
Houston built its three one-run leads for starter Asher Wojciechowski, but he let each one quickly slip away before exiting two batters into the fifth inning. He gave up four runs and eight hits.
The Mariners finished with 10 hits, including two doubles. Their three-four-five heart of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager had six hits, scored four runs and drove in three.
Just not good enough.