SEATTLE — Riding the longest win streak in baseball that put them back into the playoff conversation, the Seattle Mariners return home was a collective dud.
Worst of all may have been seeing Felix Hernandez stumble in his biggest start of the season.
“We are playing really good ball and to come in here and kind of throw a clunker out there, not exactly what we were looking for tonight, but it does happen,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.
Collin McHugh allowed just two hits in seven stellar innings and Hernandez failed to make it through the fifth as the Houston Astros ended Seattle’s eight-game win streak with a 6-0 win on Friday night.
Seattle dropped to three games behind Baltimore and Toronto in the AL wild-card race after McHugh baffled the Mariners all night. He didn’t allow a base runner until Nori Aoki’s leadoff single in the fourth inning and Seattle’s only other hit off McHugh was Kyle Seager’s single with two outs in the seventh.
McHugh (11-10) improved to 9-3 in his career against Seattle and 4-0 this season with a 1.08 ERA. McHugh is 6-0 in his career at Safeco Field.
“We just don’t see the ball well off of him,” Servais said. “We knew going into the game tonight was going to be a challenge for us, but he was certainly on top of his game.”
Meanwhile, Hernandez (11-6) stumbled in his biggest start of the season. With the Mariners back in contention, Hernandez failed to get through five innings, giving up five earned runs and eight hits.
For Seattle fans it was a similarly disappointing outing by Hernandez to the 2014 season when Seattle was in the wild-card race but lasted only 4 2/3 innings in a 10-2 loss at Toronto in the final week of the season. Fortunately these Mariners still have 15 games remaining.
“Disappointing. It’s a poor performance by me,” Hernandez said. “You know what, tomorrow is another day. We’ve just got to keep fighting.”
Solo homers by Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez in the fifth were the capper to Hernandez’s miserable night. Gattis led off the inning with his 27th home run and Gonzalez followed with his 13th that knocked Hernandez from the game. Gonzalez now has 37 career home runs, 11 of those against Seattle.
Hernandez was in trouble long before the two home runs. Jake Marisnick’s two-run double in the second inning gave Houston the lead and the Astros added on with Carlos Correa’s RBI double in the third after Jose Altuve reached on an error and Yuli Gurriel added an RBI single in the fourth.
“I missed a lot of spots today,” Hernandez said. “I was pretty much in the middle of the plate. Ball was moving all over the place, I got behind a lot and they got me.”
Houston manager A.J. Hinch praised the patience of his hitters not expanding the strike zone against Hernandez and making him throw strikes.
“We didn’t chase a lot tonight and if you don’t chase with him and you make him bring the ball in the strike zone he’s human again,” Hinch said.
Seattle was shutout for just the second time since July 24 and sixth time this season. Five of those have come at Safeco Field. The Mariners also had their streak of 14 straight games with a home run snapped.
The three hits were the fewest for the Mariners since a 10-1 loss at Pittsburgh on July 27.
Astros: 3B Alex Bregman could miss the rest of the regular season with a hamstring injury suffered on Wednesday. Bregman did not travel with the team for its road trip and remained in Houston to get treatment.
Mariners: Even after a day off, 1B Adam Lind still had some pain around his thumb and was out of the lineup for a fourth straight game. Servais was hopeful Lind would be available on Saturday.
Astros: RHP Mike Fiers (10-7) makes his 28th start of the season. Fiers lasted just 3 1/3 innings in his only other start against Seattle this season, giving up four earned runs.
Mariners: LHP James Paxton (4-6) will make his fifth start since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 25 but does not have a win since Aug. 7.