SEATTLE (AP) — Brandon Maurer's first time back on the mound as a starter since May didn't go the way he wanted. At least it was better than the last time he faced the Houston Astros.
The Seattle Mariners right-hander allowed five runs — all scoring with two outs — and seven hits in three innings as the Astros completed a three-game sweep with a 6-1 victory Wednesday night.
It was the first major league start for Maurer (4-8) since May 28. The rookie right-hander started the season in the Mariners' rotation but was sent down to Triple-A on May 29 and worked out of the bullpen since being called back up in late July. He was pressed into duty to replace ace Felix Hernandez, who was originally scheduled for the start but was scratched Monday with a minor oblique strain.
"It's a little different," Maurer said of returning to the starting role. "I went out there in the first inning, and it's like, 'All right.' Then I got to go right back out and it's, 'Here we go.'"
As bad as the line was Wednesday, it represented an improvement over Maurer's last start against the Astros on April 9, when he gave up six hits and seven hits and didn't get out of the first inning.
"It's something he's dealt with before," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "When he gets into trouble he is not able to control the damage and he can't stop it. It dominos on him."
Maurer struck out the first two batters in a perfect first inning. In the second, the Astros took a 2-0 lead on a run-scoring double by Marc Krauss and Carlos Corporan's RBI single.
Houston added three more in the third. Jonathan Villar led off with a single, and with two outs Brett Wallace drove him in with a single, Matt Dominguez had a ground-rule double and Chris Carter's single scored two runs.
"I tried to do the same thing tonight as I did in the pen," Maurer said. "It worked all right there in the first inning, but then I couldn't find the zone in the next few."
Kendrys Morales hit the 100th home run of his career for Seattle, which has lost four straight at home and starts a 10-game trip on Friday.
"When things don't go well at home, you go, 'We are going on the road, that should be better,'" Raul Ibanez said. "You keep the positive outlook, and when things go bad on the road, you go, 'Hey, we're going home, so things should be better.'"
Brad Miller singled and Franklin Guiterrez reached on an error in the eighth, and Morales drew a two-out walk to load the bases. Reliever Josh Zeid came on and got Ibanez to pop up to third, ending the inning. He pitched the ninth to earn his first career save.
The Astros — who have the worst record in the majors (50-96) — won all three games in Seattle for their third sweep of the season, and first since early June.
Brad Peacock (5-5) allowed four hits, struck out four, walked one and retired the final nine batters he faced. The right-hander has pitched into the sixth inning or deeper six times in his seven starts since being called up from Triple-A on Aug. 4. In his five previous starts for the Astros — all in April — he never got past the fifth.
The Mariners head to St. Louis to start their long trip, hoping to salvage something out of the final weeks of the season.
"We've got some young bullpen guys that have had some moments, we've had our starting pitching have some moments, and we really haven't seen much offensively," Wedge said. "It's a bad combination."
NOTES: Houston manager Bo Porter said RHP Paul Clemens, who was scratched from his scheduled start Sunday, has recovered from a blister on his right hand and will start against the Angels on Sunday. ... Seattle OF Abraham Almonte came out of Tuesday's game with stiffness in his legs and was out of the lineup Wednesday as well, although manager Eric Wedge said he expects Almonte to be ready for Friday's game in St. Louis. ... Wedge had no problems with the players-only meeting held by the Mariners after Tuesday's 13-2 loss to the Astros. "I think it's good. I always welcome that. When the players take responsibility for each other and for themselves, I think it says a great deal," Wedge said.