Saunders serves up HR on 1st pitch, Mariners lose

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 11, 2013
A season that started with promise has long turned sour for the Seattle Mariners. An ugly loss Tuesday night against the rebuilding Houston Astros continued a downward trend for Seattle and pushed the team to hold a players-only meeting. ''It's about the internal fight that is in all of us and leaving it all out on the field,'' veteran Raul Ibanez said after a 13-2 defeat. The game began as poorly as it ended for the Mariners. Jonathan Villar connected off Joe Saunders (11-14) on the first pitch, sending a drive well over the left-field fence for his first career homer. By the time Saunders was chased from the game, the Astros had scored six times. The left-hander allowed seven hits and a walk in three innings. He has lost six of his last eight decisions. ''He has struggled,'' Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. ''He is a great competitor, but you haven't seen the command.'' Aside from Tom Wilhelmsen's two perfect innings of relief, the bullpen didn't fare much better. Carter Capps, Chance Ruffin and Lucas Luetge combined to allow seven runs over the final three innings. ''It was just a bad day,'' Wedge said. ''Joe struggled early, bullpen struggled late.'' Chris Carter and Jose Altuve each had three of the Astros' 17 hits. Houston's 10 extra-base hits were a season high, eclipsing the previous mark of nine - also set against the Mariners. Altuve and rookie L.J. Hoes both had three RBIs. The total was a career high for Hoes, who entered with five RBIs in his 38-game career. ''You start to swing the bat and you start to see your teammates getting hits,'' Houston manager Bo Porter said. ''It's one of those things where it's almost like pass the baton, and guys are really seeing the ball well, laying off some tough pitches and then getting pitches that they can handle and putting good swings on them.'' Meanwhile, starter Jordan Lyles (7-7) held Seattle in check through six innings. Lyles gave up two runs - one earned - and three hits while striking out five. Jorge De Leon and Rhiner Cruz combined to throw three scoreless innings in relief of Lyles. Villar walked, stole two bases and scored during Houston's four-run third that broke the game open. Altuve and Matt Dominguez had run-scoring hits in the inning. Hoes capped the outburst with a two-run double that made it 6-1. Houston had its way on the basepaths, successfully stealing bases on all five attempts against rookie catcher Mike Zunino. Altuve swiped three and has stolen a career-high 35 this season. Franklin Gutierrez had a pair of RBI singles for the Mariners, who have lost their last three games. No other Seattle player had more than one hit, and the team went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position, stranding nine overall. ''To be honest, you have to throw it away,'' first baseman Justin Smoak said. ''Tough loss. Come back tomorrow and be ready to play hard.'' NOTES: Altuve leads the majors with 21 hits in September. ... During the game, Seattle traded smooth-fielding shortstop Brendan Ryan to the New York Yankees for a player to be named. Ryan lost his starting job to Brad Miller shortly after the rookie was called up from Triple-A Tacoma on June 28.
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