SEATTLE--Like his outings, Brandon Maurer's time in the Seattle Mariners' rotation is getting shorter and shorter.
The beleaguered 23-year-old right-hander couldn't get out of the fifth inning Saturday, allowing six runs in another sluggish, stunted start. Houston rookie George Springer homered twice off Maurer, leading the Houston Astros to a 9-4 victory before 21,585 at Safeco Field.
Maurer (1-3) has pitched five innings or less in five of his six starts for the Mariners (24-24). With left-hander James Paxton making his first rehab start for Class AAA Tacoma on Saturday, Maurer's tenure with the big-league club appears to be running short, too.
Paxton will likely need at least two more minor-league starts before returning to the Mariners' rotation, but manager Lloyd McClendon made it clear before Saturday's game that he wanted to see improved results from Maurer.
"He needs to pitch well," McClendon said.
For a while, things were rolling along well enough for Maurer. Sure, it took him just six pitches to dig the Mariners into a two-run hole, but he bounced back to retire 11 in a row after Springer's first home run gave the Astros an early 2-0 lead.
The Mariners, wearing their 1979 uniforms on Turn Back the Clock Night, had tied the score 2-2 in the bottom of the first against Astros lefty Brett Oberholtzer (1-6). Maurer looked confident and in control for the next three innings.
"I definitely calmed down a little bit," said Maurer, making his first start in 10 days. "I was throwing a little firm there to start, a little wild, but just got back into myself."
Things unraveled in a hurry for Maurer in the fifth.
Chris Carter led off the inning with a two-strike double. Alex Presley followed with a single. Robinson Cano then bobbled what appeared to be a sure 4-6-3 double play; Cano salvaged the play by tagging a sliding Presley out at second. Carter scored on the play to give the Astros a 3-2 lead.
Jose Altuve continued his torrid hitting against the Mariners, smacking a single to right field to drive in Jonathan Villar from first base on a hit-and-run. That made it 4-2.
Springer crushed his second home run, another two-run shot, this to deep left, to end Maurer's night.
"I lost conviction there. I wasn't throwing with confidence in my pitches," Maurer said.
Tom Wilhelmsen came in, walking two and allowing a Marc Krauss bloop single to score another run. In all, the Astros sent 10 batters to the plate in the fifth, scoring five runs on five hits and two walks.
"That's happened a few times, where he's on a (nice) run and one thing or another goes wrong and he just doesn't seem to get it back together," McClendon said of Maurer's rough inning.
McClendon said it was too early to consider what to make of Maurer's next potential start.
"Not much of a game," McClendon said. "We didn't really give ourselves much of an opportunity. Nobody ever wants that type of game, but when it happens, it happens, and you move on and get ready for the next one."
Kyle Seager was credited with a bases-loaded RBI in the first inning when he grounded to Krauss at first base. Krauss' throw to second skipped into left field, allowing Stefen Romero and Cano to score.
Cano, who entered the day tied for the American League lead with a .326 batting average, had two hits to improve to .330. He has reached base in 31 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the majors.
Mariners rookie leadoff hitter James Jones extended his hitting streak to 14 games with an infield single in the second.
"It's a long season," Cano said. "The last thing you (should) do is hang your head."
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