SEATTLE — Under most circumstances, having the smallest crowd in Safeco Field history would have been a distressing occurrence for the Mariners.
But on Tuesday night, perhaps the organization could view the paltry attendance figure (10,745) as a blessing in disguise. For this was a game best seen by the fewest eyes, an all-around disaster of a night that resulted in a 16-9 victory by the Astros over Seattle.
Yes, the team widely regarded as the worst in baseball — many believe, in fact, the Astros could challenge the all-time loss record — had their way with the Mariners, who hoped to clean up on their 19 games with Houston.
The Astros pounded out 22 hits, and their 15 runs batted in exceeded by one their total for the first seven games of the season. They came into the game with two homers, and added five — two of them by outfielder Chris Carter.
The rout started early, with rookie Brandon Maurer failing to even make it out of the first inning. Coming off a rough major-league debut in Oakland, Maurer struggled even more in his home unveiling. He gave up seven hits and a walk for six runs before manager Eric Wedge finally pulled him after a two-run double by Jose Altuve.
It was Altuve’s second at-bat of the inning — he led off the game with a single — and the start of an outstanding night for the All-Star second baseman. He hit his first homer of the season in the fourth inning off Charlie Furbush, and finished with four hits, just a triple shy of the cycle.
In his two starts, Maurer has given up 15 hits and 12 runs in 6-2/3 innings for an earned-run average of 16.20. The Mariners are likely to be having a discussion to determine if he’ll remain in the rotation.
Their next pitcher, Kameron Loe, didn’t fare much better. In 2-1/3 innings, Loe gave up six hits and five runs. Perhaps most alarming is that Loe gave up three homers, and has now allowed five longballs in 6-2/3 innings.
This is the same Astros’ team, mind you, that came into the game as the worst offensive team in the American League. They had been shut out three times in seven games and had scored just 17 runs.
The Astros, in fact, had just 10 extra-base hits coming in: five doubles, three triples and two homers. In nine innings against the Mariners on Tuesday, they got eight extra-base hits. In addition to Carter and Altuve, the homers came from J.D. Martinez and Marwin Gonzalez — in each case, their first of the season.
Adding to the Mariners’ indignity was the fact that Astros starter Erik Bedard, who had been on the wrong end of one of the worst trades in team history, blanked them for four innings. Bedard had a perfect game going with one out in the fourth before Michael Saunders lined a clean single to center, eliciting as loud a mock cheer as 10,745 fans can muster.
The second mock cheer of the night came when Brendan Ryan’s sacrifice fly brought home Dustin Ackley, who had singled and moved to third on Robert Andino’s double.
Michael Saunders added another sacrifice fly in the inning.
Jason Bay blasted his first homer as a Mariner in the seventh, a no-doubter off the facing of the upper deck in left. And Raul Ibanez added his first homer of his third Mariners’ stint in the eighth. That was followed by Michael Morse’s sixth homer of the season to left-center — the first one this year that probably wouldn’t have been out last season with the old fences.
The eight combined home runs were the third most in Safeco history. There were nine in two separate games in 2004, one against the Indians, the other against the Royals.