SEATTLE -- It started with a boom Monday for the Astros but ended with a whimper in a 2-1 loss to the Mariners at Safeco Field.
George Springer opened the game with his 21st career leadoff homer, crushing a 96-mph 3-1 fastball from lefty James Paxton 455 feet to right-center. It was his third-longest homer since Statcast™ began tracking data in 2015. Springer, who set a club record with nine leadoff homers last season, has three this year, four homers overall.
"He's tough," Springer said of Paxton. "He throws hard. He has great angle on his ball. It's one of those things where I'm just looking for something to hit and, hopefully, I don't miss it. Obviously, it felt good off the bat."
But that was it.
The Astros managed just two more hits against Paxton and none against a relay of three Mariners relievers as they wasted a stellar complete game from Dallas Keuchel (0-3) and lost for the fifth time in six games.
"That's how it's been the last couple of days," said manager AJ Hinch, who saw Justin Verlander allow one hit over eight innings in an Astros loss on Sunday. "We just have no margin for error, but our starter keeps giving us plenty of opportunities. If we keep doing that, we're going to be happy with it."
The Mariners made it a 1-1 game when Nelson Cruz golfed a two-out changeup from Keuchel over the left-field wall in the fourth inning. It was Cruz's third homer of the season and first since returning from the disabled list on Saturday.
"It was definitely down," Keuchel said. "I would have liked to have it a little more outside. If I'm going to throw it middle down, I'm going to have it coming into him. It just so happened that it didn't break back as much as I would like.
"That's a credit to him. That's a good pitch."
The winning run was even tougher for Keuchel to take.
David Freitas opened the sixth inning by floating a double into the left-field corner before Dee Gordon sent a soft flare into right. Springer slipped as he chased after the ball, which resulted in an RBI double.
"Dee wasn't trying to do too much with the ball," Keuchel said. "I felt we were playing pretty deep on him. If I make a mistake, and he hits it over somebody's head, then I'm fine with that. That was just bad luck."
Springer appeared to have a play on the ball before he slipped.
"I'd like to think I could [catch] it," he said. "And if I don't, I make sure the ball stays in front, and I hold [Freitas] to third. It's frustrating, but it is what it is."
It was enough for Paxton and the Mariners. Paxton worked the first six innings before Nick Vincent, Juan Nicasio and Edwin Diaz each delivered an inning of hitless relief. Diaz walked Carlos Correa leading off the ninth, and Correa stole second base, but Diaz stranded him and got his seventh save in seven chances.
"Anytime you think you had good quality at-bats," Springer said, "it becomes frustrating. But that's the game. You just have to stick it out and get out of the slump."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Haniger hauls one in:Mitch Haniger has carried a big bat this season with a Mariners-leading 15 RBIs, but the right fielder delivered with his glove in the sixth inning to help preserve Paxton's one-run outing. With Correa on first and one out, Haniger raced into the gap in right-center to haul in a line drive by Yuli Gurriel on a play rated a 5-star catch by Statcast™, it's highest ranking, with just a 25 percent catch probability. Haniger covered 75 feet in 4.5 seconds for just the second 5-star catch of his career, the other coming in 2016 with the D-backs.
Two-part web gem: Shortstop Correa and first baseman Gurriel teamed up for a slick defensive play on Guillermo Heredia's leadoff grounder to deep short in the third inning. Correa ranged to his right and made a strong throw, but it pulled Gurriel away from first base. Gurriel quickly shifted his feet to catch the ball and made a nice sweeping tag to retire Heredia.
Mitel Replay of the Day
A replay review in the fifth inning validated a spectacular play by Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager on a slow two-out chopper by Alex Bregman with a runner on first. Seager barehanded the ball and made a strong throw to first that umpire Sean Barber ruled beat Bregman. The Astros challenged, but the call would stand.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The loss dropped the Astros behind the Mariners and into third place in the American League West. The Astros are also 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Angels. A year ago, they never dropped lower than second and were never more than 1 1/2 games out of first.
It projects as a good matchup for right-hander Lance McCullers when the Astros' series with the Mariners continues at 9:10 CT Tuesday night at Safeco Field. Five of his 20 career victories have come against the Mariners, who are expected to start lefty Ariel Miranda after recalling him from Triple-A Tacoma.