Mariners fall to Astros

M’s can’t touch Houston pitching staff in 6-2 loss

SEATTLE — This was a reminder of why the Astros have elevated themselves to their current record and perch atop the American League West. This series is also a preview of the likely pitching rotation that Houston will roll out in the American League Division Series.

Neither will help the Mariners in their quest to somehow overtake three teams in the final four weeks of the season and somehow sneak into the American League wild-card game.

Astros ace Dallas Keuchel delivered Houston’s deepest outing since June and the Astros offense scored four runs against the Mariners’ two key setup men in a four-run seventh inning to hand Seattle a 6-2 loss and snap a three-game winning streak.

It won’t get any easier for the Mariners. They’ll face recently acquired Justin Verlander in his Astros debut Tuesday and close out the series with right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., who will return from the disabled list to start Wednesday.

Facing the No. 1-2-3 starters of the best team in the American League isn’t ideal to make up postseason ground. But the Mariners have the toughest schedule remaining of the teams in the wild-card race, including three games against the Angels to close out the homestand and road trips to Texas, Houston and Anaheim.

Erasmo Ramirez gave the Mariners a solid start, pitching six innings and allowing two runs on four hits, two of them solo homers, with two walks and five strikeouts.

Given a 1-0 run lead in the first inning, Ramirez cruised through the first four innings without allowing a run. But two misplaced pitches in the fifth inning led to two runs.

Yuli Gurriel slammed a solo homer to start the frame on a 1-1 slider to tie the game at 1-1. With one out, Brian McCann took advantage of a 2-2 changeup left up in the zone, crushing the second solo homer of the inning into right for a 2-1 lead.

Keuchel was better, pitching 72/3 innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts. His only runs allowed came off the bat of Kyle Seager, who had a first-inning RBI single and a solo homer in the sixth that tied the game at 2-2.

But the combination of Marc Rzepczynski and Nick Vincent couldn’t keep it tied. The two combined to give up two runs each in the decisive four-run seventh.