SEATTLE -- Erik Swanson was good. Carlos Carrasco was better. And so it went for the Mariners on Wednesday, as they saw their losing streak reach six games with a 1-0 setback to the Indians to close out a lost homestand.
Swanson dazzled in his Major League starting debut with six innings of one-run ball, allowing just two hits. But that wasn’t enough to stop Seattle’s skid as the Mariners suffered their first shutout of the season and the first 1-0 loss at home since June 5, 2015, against the Rays.
“Erik Swanson was outstanding,” manager Scott Servais said. “He was really a bright spot. We talked coming into the season about this being a season of opportunity. A lot of young guys are going to get opportunities. He’s getting one and he took advantage of one today.”
The Mariners saw their Major League-record streak of 20 games with a homer to start the season snapped, as Carlos Carrasco and reliever Nick Wittgren held them to three hits with 14 strikeouts in continuing a troublesome trend for Seattle’s offense.
After rolling into T-Mobile Park with a 13-2 record and the most productive offense in MLB, the Mariners went 0-for-6 in their homestand while being outscored by 12 runs (27-15) by the Astros and Indians.
After batting .295 and averaging 7.8 runs in their first 15 outings, the Mariners hit .175 with 72 strikeouts and 13 walks in the six-game homestand. The difficult shadows and lighting in the late-afternoon start time played havoc with both team’s hitters in Wednesday’s finale, but Seattle's struggles began against Houston’s elite pitching and never subsided.
“We went from scoring runs at will to [having it be] really tough to get much going,” Servais said. “A lot of credit to the pitching we faced. But on the other side of that, we chased some pitches out of the zone today. Carrasco had a really good split-changeup thing that was down.”
Carrasco has been one of the American League’s best right-handers the past few seasons, but he’d gone 1-2 with a 12.60 ERA in three starts this season. That script flipped against the Mariners, however, as the 32-year-old allowed just three hits with two walks and 12 strikeouts in seven sharp innings.
“He was throwing all his pitches well in the zone with some really nasty shadows behind him,” said Seattle third baseman Ryon Healy. “It was tough to pick up spin out of his hand initially. A couple pitches that maybe we missed throughout the lineup that normally we don’t. ... But hats off to him. He threw really well today.”
Swanson, a 25-year-old acquired from the Yankees in the James Paxton deal last winter, nearly matched Carrasco, as only a solo homer by Jake Bauers in the fifth spoiled Swanson's sterling 81-pitch outing as he took the injured Wade LeBlanc's turn in the Mariners' rotation.
Swanson also likes to elevate a high-spin fastball that also played tough in the late-afternoon lighting.
“It’s a good step in the right direction, a good way to start out my first one,” said Swanson, who joins Brandon Morrow (2008 vs. the Yankees) and Doug Fister ('09 vs. the White Sox) as the only Mariners pitchers to throw six-plus innings with one or fewer runs and two or fewer hits in a Major League starting debut.
The home run that wasn’t
Healy nearly extended Seattle’s home run streak in the third with a line drive down the left-field line that initially was ruled a home run, before a quick replay review showed the ball was foul.
“It’s such a game of inches,” Servais said. “We’d have taken anything we got at that point. Home runs are nice. We’ve been riding that train a little bit, too, and that dried up today as well.”
Healy, riding an 0-for-19 slump, wasn’t about to argue with the foul call, noting, “You can’t lie with slow-motion.”
But that didn’t stop Healy from trying to will that line drive fair.
“I hoped. I did all I could,” Healy said. “I hit it hard. It’s a game of inches, as they say. I was running hard out of the box because I assumed it would be a double at the best. Instead it was a homer that didn’t happen.”
The Mariners’ 20-game streak blew past the previous record of 14 straight games with a homer to open a season, set by the 2002 Indians, though it fell short of Seattle’s club record of 23 straight games with a home run at any point in the season set in '13. The MLB record for consecutive games with a homer at any point remains 27 by the ‘02 Rangers.