The 2018 All-Star went 2-for-4 with a double to go with his dinger, but it wasn’t enough to prevent an Astros sweep as the Mariners dropped to 13-5. Houston has won nine straight to pull a game back at 11-5 in the early American League West standings.
The Astros derailed the Mariners’ offensive momentum for a second straight day, holding Seattle to four hits with 15 strikeouts. The Mariners had scored five or more runs in 15 of their first 16 games before being limited to three runs over the past two games.
Seattle struck out 28 times while totaling just eight hits and no walks in those two losses, with Houston starters Cole and Justin Verlander combining for 22 strikeouts in 12 innings.
“They threw the ball against us very well all weekend,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “They’ve been good ballgames. They’ve been tight and we’ve done a pretty job defensively, we’ve made the plays. But you have to credit their pitching. They shut us down. I don’t think they threw a fastball under 94 mph today. It’s not just the starter, they have quality guys out of the ‘pen as well.”
After going 6-1 on the road against the White Sox and Royals, Seattle knew things would get tougher in this homestand against Houston and Cleveland, the latter of which will throw a couple more tough right-handers starting on Monday with Trevor Bauer.
Haniger relishes the challenge, and why not? The All-Star right fielder has hit .381 (8-for-21) with three doubles, a triple and three homers over his last five games to hike his season average to .289.
“Those two -- Cole and Verlander -- are two of the best right-handed pitchers in the game,” said Haniger. “It’s always a battle and always fun facing guys like that. I think it helps you.”
Haniger is now 6-for-16 with three doubles and a homer in his career against Cole, who finished fifth in the AL Cy Young Award voting last year. He jumped on a 1-2 curveball for his first-inning homer, and then battled back from 0-2 to work a full count before dumping a double down the left-field line in the third in a hard-fought at-bat.
“He has good plate coverage and he's really balanced,” Cole said. “It’s just tough to get him going back and forward because he just stays over his legs so well.”
Haniger now has been solely responsible for keeping the homer streak alive in three games. He had a fourth-inning blast off Verlander in Saturday night’s 3-1 loss, and he hit the go-ahead ninth-inning homer on Wednesday in a 6-5 victory at Kansas City for the Mariners’ only home run that day as well, when they tied the previous MLB record of 14 straight games by the Indians in 2002.
Seattle's 18-game streak with a homer ties for the third-longest run at any point in a season in club history. The club record for consecutive games with a homer is 23, set midway through the 2013 season. The longest consecutive home run streak for any team -- not just starting the season -- is 27 games by the '02 Rangers.
Pitching streaks snapped
Marco Gonzales saw his string of four straight starts with a victory snapped as he took a no-decision after allowing five hits, two walks and two runs over 5 1/3 innings. The 27-year-old lefty had a one-hit shutout going until giving up four singles in the sixth.
Gonzales was replaced with two on and one out by Rule 5 Draft rookie Brandon Brennan, who kept the game tied by striking out Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel. But Aledmys Diaz jumped on Brennan’s first pitch in the seventh for what turned out to be the game-winning home run, ending Brennan’s streak of 11 1/3 scoreless innings to start his MLB career.
“He ambushed a fastball,” Brennan said. “It’s as simple as that. I threw a first-pitch fastball, tried to put it on the outside and it kind of leaked back over the middle. It found the barrel. It was a little bit of a wall-scraper, but he hit the ball.”
Brennan has been one of the Mariners’ early season surprises, racking up 13 strikeouts while allowing just six hits in 12 1/3 innings, but he knew his scoreless run wouldn’t last forever.
“To be honest, I’m not really focused on that part of it," Brennan said. “The only thing that sucks is getting the loss. I wanted to obviously keep our team in it. But I’ll build on it, keep going and hopefully we string a couple wins together here in this next series with Cleveland.”