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First-inning foibles set tone for Astros

Bloop popup, error and bases-loaded walk add up to two runs

SEATTLE -- There was a popup that wasn't caught, a fielding error that allowed the Mariners to load the bases, and a missed tag. The Astros left outs on the table in the first inning Friday night, and that set the tone in a 5-2 loss at Safeco Field that snapped a five-game winning streak.

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Rookie right-hander Lance McCullers didn't have much go right for him in the first inning, giving up a pair of earned runs. He wound up with the shortest start of his young big league career, giving up five runs (three earned), six hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings.

"To me, the game's all about the first inning," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We didn't control the inning nearly as well as we normally do. We had a little bit of everything happen, from a seeing-eye single, to an error, to a missed tag. Too many bad things happened that inning, and that's what kick-started the night."

Logan Morrison began the first with a pop fly to shallow left field that fell between left fielder Preston Tucker, third baseman Luis Valbuena and shortstop Carlos Correa. McCullers appeared to have picked off Morrison at first, but instant replay showed Chris Carter's tag missed the runner, allowing him to get his hand on the base.

After McCullers walked Austin Jackson, Robinson Cano hit a slow roller to second baseman Marwin Gonzalez, who misplayed it to load the bases with no outs.

"The defensive alignment [on the popup] set us up a little bit to where you're coming at the popup from a couple of different angles," Hinch said. "Correa is playing up the middle; Tucker is shaded back and towards left-center. He hit it to a pretty dangerous area.

"I'm not sure how the communication went. It was luck on their part that they sort of hit it in the little triangle where nobody was. We didn't make the play. It was hanging up there long enough for us to make the play. We held them to a single, but a couple of other things happened that inning to make it a bigger inning for them."

McCullers walked Nelson Cruz to force in a run, but then got three consecutive outs, including a pair of strikeouts. The one ball put in play in that span was a grounder off the bat of Mark Trumbo that scored Jackson to put the Mariners ahead, 2-1. They never trailed.

Video: [email protected]: Cruz draws bases-loaded walk to tie the game

"I think it wasn't our night," McCullers said. "A lot of things didn't go our way, especially in that situation when you're looking for ground balls and they were hit just in the right spots and not hard enough to turn two and that kind of stuff. It was frustrating all night. We did what we could do out there. We battled."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
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