SEATTLE - Jose Altuve slowed his jog up the first-base line, his popup landing in Dee Gordon's mitt as another harmless out on a night full of them. He removed his helmet and stared out to the grass before him while another fruitless inning concluded.
They were again under a roofed stadium, now a time zone away, but this was all too familiar. The Astros continued their miserable offensive display, wasting a superb start from their rotation for another loss, 2-1, to the Mariners.
George Springer launched a solo home run off Mariners starter James Paxton on the game's fifth pitch. The team did not muster another extra-base hit. Two singles, one by Springer, were all it could. After the fifth inning, there was not a hit.
In the last 16 innings, the Astros' starting pitchers have permitted three earned runs and yielded only nine hits. In return, they've received one run and four hits of backing. Justin Verlander's eight-inning magnificence was squandered Sunday night.
Monday it was Dallas Keuchel. He, like Verlander, made few mistakes. Nelson Cruz golfed out a low changeup in the fourth inning to tie the game at one. Verlander ceded a solo shot to Robinson Chirinos on Sunday.
Solo home runs don't usually beat you, Verlander said afterward.
Right now, for the Astros, they do.
Keuchel was otherwise superb.Nine walks haunted his first three starts. His inability to harness his fastball command, to either his glove or arm side, was troubling. The inefficiency even moreso. Twelve outs last week against Minnesota required 101 pitches. Fifteen against Baltimore a week earlier came after 104.
Monday was a return to form. He spun eight innings of six-hit, one-run baseball on just 96 pitches.
Keuchel worked rapidly, spotting his biting two-seam fastball wherever he pleased. Fifty-five pitches placed him through five scoreless innings. Eleven of his first 15 outs were groundballs.
He allowed three men into scoring position with less than two outs in both the sixth and seventh innings. Only David Freitas scored.