SEATTLE — Few were around to see it, but the Mariners took two head-shaking losses Wednesday night.
The Mariners (4-6) dropped their second in a row against the Houston Astros and set another attendance record low (10,493 fans) in an 8-3 loss.
In another difficult game for Seattle, there were 252 fewer fans at Safeco Field than the night before.
Michael Saunders’ night lasted four pitches.
He caught diminutive Jose Altuve’s leadoff drive to right when he reached his left hand over his head and banged into the wall simultaneously. Saunders went down and lay on his back on the warning track for several minutes.
Manager Eric Wedge and trainer Rick Griffin ran out to check on him. Saunders walked off with his right arm tight to his body and was initially diagnosed with a sprained right shoulder. He will be re-examined by team medical director Dr. Edward Khalfayan and will miss “some time,” according to the Mariners.
Saunders had been hitting leadoff or second to start the season and had a seven-game hitting streak.
Possible candidates from Tacoma to replace him include Endy Chavez, Eric Thames and Carlos Peguero.
Following Tuesday night’s pitching debacle, the Mariners’ desperate need for a long outing from starting pitcher Blake Beavan got off to a bumpy start.
Beavan (0-1) had a clean first inning before allowing three runs and four hits in the second. Rick Ankiel hit a two-run homer to center field and Beavan faced eight batters in the inning, threatening to muss everyone’s scorecard early in the game.
He stumbled through the third on the way to allowing two more runs.
His ineffective pitching was complemented by ineffective fielding.
A second-inning pop-up by Jason Castro fell in center field between former Gold Glove winner Franklin Gutierrez and Gold Glove candidate Brendan Ryan, who appeared to lose the ball in the lights. Castro ended up on second, on what was scored as an error on Gutierrez, and later scored.
Houston used multiple dramatic defensive shifts throughout the series. When Kyle Seager was up in the first, the Astros swung their defense around to the right side against the left-hander, leaving just third baseman Matt Dominguez on the left side.
Seager hit a soft liner that was tailing away from Dominguez, which he made a dive for. Seager stopped running to see if Dominguez had caught it. He had not, but was able to get up and throw out Seager by a half step because of Seager’s stall down the first-base line.
Beavan’s careening night concluded when he was pulled with one on and two out in the sixth. He finished with a mediocre line of 52/3 innings, nine hits and five runs (four earned) allowed.
Home runs from Kelly Shoppach (3-for-3 with a walk) in the third and Gutierrez in the sixth helped the Mariners pull to 5-3. The notion of a tight game soon escaped when Houston first baseman Chris Carter launched a Carter Capps pitch into the Astros’ bullpen for a 7-3 lead.
Carter menaced the Mariners for a two-night total of 7-for-12 with three homers and five RBI. Capps later allowed another homer and gave up three earned runs in 1 2/3 innings.
One bright spot was the debut of Bobby LaFromboise, who was called up from Triple-A Tacoma earlier in the day. He worked a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts in his major league debut.
Texas comes to Seattle tonight to face Felix Hernandez in his 2013 home debut. After dropping a series to expected division doormat Houston, King Felix will hear the usual request when he takes the mound: fix it.
BLUE JAYS CLAIM WELLS
Outfielder Casper Wells was the last man cut by the Mariners in spring training, and he’s no longer part of the organization as a result.
Wells was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday. He was acquired by Seattle as part of the Doug Fister trade with Detroit. That deal is progressively looking worse for the Mariners.
Seattle sent David Pauley and Fister to the Tigers for Wells, lefty reliever Charlie Furbush, then-reliever Chance Ruffin and outfielder Francisco Martinez.
Furbush was very effective last season for the Mariners when he went 5-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.
Seattle is trying to convert Ruffin into a starter. He’s 1-0 at Double-A Jackson. Martinez is hitting .133 at Jackson. Wells is out of the organization after hitting .225 in parts of two seasons.
Fister is 19-11 with a 3.00 ERA for Detroit, in addition to two postseason wins.