Mariners erupt late to take series in Houston
HOUSTON -- The Mariners scored a pair of unearned runs in the eighth inning, taking advantage of a throwing error by reliever Pat Neshek to break a tie, and then added three more runs in the ninth on a Logan Morrison homer to beat the Astros, 8-3, on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.
Shawn O'Malley, making his Mariners debut, went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, including an RBI single in the eighth inning that broke a 3-3 tie. He scored Seattle's fifth run on a fielder's choice off the bat of pinch-hitter Seth Smith later in the inning. Morrison slammed a three-run homer in the ninth off Josh Fields for his second homer in as many nights.
"I love this park," said Morrison, who has hit six of his 15 homers this year at Minute Maid. "It's good to know you can be a little late and still get a ball out. If you're at Safeco, that's probably an out."
Astros starter Scott Kazmir, who went 1-4 with a 3.94 ERA in August, lasted only 4 1/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) and seven hits. Mariners starter Taijuan Walker held the Astros to three runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings.
The Astros now have a two-game lead over the Rangers for first place in the American League West and lost ground to the third-place Angels, who beat the A's for the second day in a row and are 5 1/2 games back of first. The series loss was Houston's first at home since dropping two of three to the White Sox to close out May.
"Obviously, the extra out we gave them hurt in the eighth, and they came up and tacked on some runs with Morrison's homer," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "All in all, just a very disappointing loss. We did have our own opportunities and a chance to win the series, and they just did more things correctly to win the series."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Reinforcements welcome: O'Malley, one of four players called up by the Mariners when rosters were expanded for September, made his debut memorable. The 27-year-old utility man also knocked in Seattle's first run with a single in the second, scoring Stefen Romero -- another callup who started the game in right field. O'Malley, who grew up in Kennewick, Wash., was playing just his 12th Major League game after appearing briefly with the Angels last September.
"O'Malley, as well as Romero, [Ketel Marte], all of the young kids showed a lot of energy, not only on the bases but at the plate," said manager Lloyd McClendon. "They gave us good at-bats and they really energized us tonight."
Error costly for Neshek: Neshek, who gave up a tiebreaking two-run home run to Morrison on Tuesday, made his first career error in the eighth, leading to a pair of unearned runs. Neshek walked Morrison to start the eighth and then threw away a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Jesus Sucre, putting runners at second and third with no outs and opening the door for Seattle.
"It was the worst play I've ever made in my life," Neshek said. "It happens. It got away from me. It's got to get made, that changes the game a lot. You could go after guys second and third, but you have to really get a strikeout there or an infield popup. It was a pretty bad play." More >
Colby's cannon: After nearly throwing out Kyle Seager at third base earlier in the seventh inning, Astros right fielder Colby Rasmus came up with a huge play later in the inning when he threw out Nelson Cruz at home plate as he tried to tag up from third base for an inning-ending double play to keep the game tied.
Early closing time: McClendon went to his new closer, Tom Wilhelmsen, with one out in the eighth and a runner on third with a 5-3 lead, and the 31-year-old slammed the door for his sixth straight save. Wilhelmsen, who has replaced Carson Smith in that role, retired Evan Gattis on a fly to right and struck out Rasmus to leave Jed Lowrie standing 90 feet from home, then pitched a scoreless ninth around Carlos Gomez's leadoff double and advance to third on an error. Since moving back into the closer's spot for the first time since 2013, Wilhelmsen has thrown seven scoreless innings, with four hits and eight strikeouts.
"I've learned quite a bit in the absence it's been," Wilhelmsen said. "Learning how to deal with successes and failures, how to bounce back, controlled breathing, just by watching [Fernando Rodney] and some of the other guys."
"This one is all on me. Not getting through five and putting the team in a bad spot, it shows later on in the innings and guys have to eat up innings. It was frustrating, especially how I felt. I felt really well. Going into the game and my bullpen [warmup] and throughout everything, I felt like I had good stuff. But it just didn't last." -- Kazmir.
"I was just trying to harness my inner Carson Smith after what he did yesterday. Seriously, that's exactly what went through my mind. Just be a Carson right now." -- Wilhelmsen after stranding runners at third with no out in the eighth and ninth, just as Smith had done Tuesday in the seventh.
Cruz, the Mariners' designated hitter, left the game after four at-bats with a strained right quadriceps muscle that he injured on the play at the plate on Rasmus' throw in the seventh. He's day to day, according to McClendon. More >
Hinch unsuccessfully reviewed a call at third base in the seventh, trying to get a safe call overturned. Seager slid into third ahead of the tag from Lowrie, but Hinch challenged that Seager came off the base while Lowrie applied the tag. Seager was ruled safe.
Mariners: After an off-day Thursday, the Mariners open a three-game set in Oakland on Friday at 7:05 p.m. PT with rookie southpaw Edgar Olmos on the mound. The 25-year-old will be making his second career start after stepping in when Mike Montgomery was demoted to Triple-A last week. He took a no-decision Sunday vs. the White Sox, allowing five hits, five walks and three runs in five innings.
Astros: The Astros will take Thursday off before opening a three-game series at Minute Maid Park against the Twins. Collin McHugh (14-7, 3.92 ERA) will get the start in Friday's 7:10 p.m. CT game for Houston, looking for his sixth consecutive quality start..
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