"From a pitching perspective, it was just a very off day," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "Everybody was scuffling today."
Foremost among that group was rookie starter Brandon Maurer, who was trying to rebound from a tough outing on the road in his Major League debut but went in the opposite direction, giving up singles to the first three batters and watching Houston bat around to the tune of six runs on seven hits in two-thirds of an inning.
After the game, Maurer, who made the team out of Spring Training after pitching in Double-A last year, said he had received encouragement from his teammates, who reminded him that future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson also had similar struggles early in his career.
"I think I'm kind of just going to let this one go," Maurer said. "I've got to move on from this one, go out and get the next one."
The good news was that a Matt Dominguez line drive that struck Maurer in the right thigh three batters before the right-hander departed the game was not a postgame concern. Maurer said he felt fine.
It also seemed likely that the Mariners will keep him in the rotation for now, despite a 16.20 ERA, although Triple-A starter Danny Hultzen continues to impress, with a five-inning, two-run, seven-strikeout victory for Tacoma on Tuesday night in Sacramento.
"You love his arm, you love his stuff," Wedge said of Maurer. "He had a great spring and he deserves to be up here."
The pitcher who came in to calm things down, reliever Kameron Loe, saw the lead balloon to 11-0 by giving up five runs on six hits, including three home runs, in his 2 1/3 innings of work. Loe has now given up six homers in seven innings this year.
Wedge said that the workload this game put on the bullpen as a whole -- the club also used Charlie Furbush for two innings, Lucas Luetge for three innings and Oliver Perez for one -- could necessitate a roster move, which would be a topic of discussion for late Tuesday night and Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Astros kept hitting. Furbush gave up two more runs on a homer to second baseman Jose Altuve, who had four hits and a career-high four RBIs and finished a triple short of the cycle.
By the time the fourth inning ended, it was 13-0, every player on the Astros except for first baseman Brett Wallace had a hit, and former Mariners left-hander Erik Bedard, the starter for Houston, was twirling a one-hit gem.
Bedard, who was making his first start of the season after a relief appearance on Opening Day, didn't come out for the fifth inning after reaching his pitch limit, and the Mariners finally showed some life against his replacement, right-hander Paul Clemens, who made his Major League debut. Seattle scored twice in the bottom of the inning on sacrifice flies by Brendan Ryan and Michael Saunders.
"I don't change anything," Bedard said. "I throw like it was a 0-0 game and you can't let the score do too much to the way you want to throw. You keep battling, you keep throwing strikes and the rest will take care of itself."
The Mariners' offense came alive with seven runs in the last three innings. Jason Bay hit his first homer as a Mariner in the seventh, Raul Ibanez and Michael Morse hit back-to-back solo shots in the eighth, and the Mariners managed a four-run tally in the ninth.
Morse's blast was his sixth of the season, tying Atlanta's Justin Upton for the Major League lead. Ibanez's was his 67th at Safeco Field, adding to his lead for homers in the ballpark and moving past Edgar Martinez into second place for most RBIs at Safeco Field with 264 (Ichiro Suzuki is the leader with 314).
And Safeco Field itself, in the second game with its new outfield dimensions, hosted eight homers in all -- the third most in a single game in the history of the ballyard.
For Wedge, the late fireworks at least brought something positive to the table on a difficult night.
"I'm proud of the way they kept playing," Wedge said. "They kept playing and fought through ABs. Our offense did a nice job of not giving away ABs and still getting something out of that game."
As for the ultimate outcome, Wedge summed it up well when talking about young Maurer.
"It's the big leagues," Wedge said. "Sometimes it doesn't matter what you do."