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Astros end skid thanks to six-run ninth inning

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Astros end skid thanks to six-run ninth inning

SEATTLE -- Houston ended a 17-inning scoreless streak with a six-run ninth inning, most of it coming off Seattle Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen, and the Astros snapped a six-game losing streak with a 6-1 win Wednesday night.

Chris Carter drove in the Astros' first two runs since Monday with a one-out, bases-loaded single off Wilhelmsen in the top of the ninth, and then Seattle's bullpen struggled to get out of the inning.

"It's never too late when you're able to put together a six-run inning, especially after the woes we've had the last two games," said Astros manager Bo Porter, whose team scored two runs over the first 26 innings of the Seattle series heading into Wednesday's ninth. "It was definitely good to see the guys break out and put together some good at-bats in the ninth inning."

A Houston team that scored seven total runs over its previous 62 innings erupted for five hits, four walks and six runs while sending 12 batters to the plate in Wednesday's ninth inning. Wilhelmsen (0-2) was charged with the first five runs for his fourth blown save of the season.

The struggling closer, who has now given up 10 runs in 4 2/3 innings this month, retired only one of the six batters he faced Wednesday -- and that out came on a successful sacrifice bunt.

A visibly frustrated Wilhelmsen summed up his performance with a one-word expletive, then added: "Merry-go-round -- that's three words. Hard hits -- that's two. So there, there's six words."

For Seattle, the loss wasted another solid start for Jeremy Bonderman on his road back from Tommy John surgery. Bonderman pitched eight scoreless innings while giving up just three hits. After an RBI single by rookie Nick Franklin in the bottom of the eighth, the Mariners handed a 1-0 lead to Wilhelmsen in the ninth.

Bonderman threw only 89 pitches, but because of his recent medical record, manager Eric Wedge decided to go with Wilhelmsen in the ninth.

"I can't do that to (Bonderman), not with his history," Wedge said of letting Bonderman finish the game. "He's 14 months after surgery; it wouldn't be fair."

Bonderman said he felt good after the eighth inning but that he understood the decision to let Wilhelmsen try to finish it off.

"Tom's one of the best in the biz," Bonderman said. "I don't have any problem with that. ... It's a part of the game."

Bonderman, who was making his third start of the season and his third since 2010, gave up three hits Wednesday. He has allowed just six total hits and a single run over his past two outings.

Yoervis Medina replaced Wilhelmsen one out into the ninth and gave up RBI singles to Brandon Barnes and Jose Altuve, then Charlie Furbush came on and walked two consecutive batters before finally ending the inning.

It was a markedly unrepresentative finish to a game that saw virtually no offense before the bottom of the eighth inning.

Franklin's two-out, run-scoring single in the eighth was his third hit of the night -- and the eighth by either team. The hit to right field off reliever Travis Blackley drove in Endy Chavez from second base.

Houston starter Jordan Lyles did his part to keep the Astros in the game, throwing seven shutout innings while allowing just three hits. Lyles, who hasn't allowed more than two runs in a game since May 12, struck out a career-high 10. He became the ninth pitcher this season to record double-digit strikeouts in a game against Seattle.

"Jordan was outstanding tonight," Porter said. "You're talking seven solid innings."

The Astros committed two errors in the game, giving them seven in the three-game series and a league-high 51 for the season.

Paul Clemens (4-2) threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Chavez led off the eighth with a single off reliever Hector Ambriz, who then cleanly fielded a Jason Bay bunt and threw to second base before an error on shortstop Marwin Gonzalez allowed both runners to reach safely. Blackley came into the game and got two outs before Franklin's single gave Seattle a 1-0 lead.

Five of Houston's eight hits came in the ninth, including three off Wilhelmsen.

"You have to put it behind you," Wilhelmsen said. "That's it: to plug on."

Whether Wilhelmsen will get the call in the next save situation is still up in the air as the Mariners head into an off day Thursday.

"Tom Wilhelmsen is still our closer, standing here right now," Wedge said a few minutes after the Mariners went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth, "but the game just got over."

Wilhelmsen has allowed at least one run in four of his six outings this month, although he has four saves to show for it.

"You've got to be careful," Wedge said when asked about the possibility of replacing his closer. "Anytime you make a decision like that, you make sure it's the right one moving forward -- because you're not going to be bouncing back and forth."

NOTES: Mariners C Mike Zunino, one day after being called up from Triple-A Tacoma, made his major league debut and went 1-for-4. Zunino, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft, singled in the fourth inning for his first big-league hit. ... Nagging injuries continue to hamstring the Mariners, who were without DH/1B Kendrys Morales (back stiffness) and OF Michael Morse (strained quad). Wedge said Morse was getting a routine day off. ... Altuve was back in the leadoff spot Wednesday, one day after having his 11-game hitting streak snapped with an 0-for-4 performance in Seattle. He went 1-for-5 with a two-run single Wednesday. ... Five of the nine players who started Wednesday's game for the Mariners began this season in Double- or Triple-A. ... Houston 3B Matt Dominguez made his second error in three nights when he made a wild throw in the third inning. ... Both the Mariners and Astros have Thursday off.

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