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Astros halt Seattle’s win streak

SEATTLE — It was ultimately Seattle’s inability to lay a hand on Houston pitching most of the night that proved the difference in a 5-2 loss to the Houston Astros that snapped the Mariners’ season-high six-game winning streak.

But it was a play on which Mitch Haniger couldn’t quite keep his glove on a drive by Houston’s Brian McCann in the seventh inning that best typified a game that never really seemed in Seattle’s grasp against the team with the best record in the major leagues.

It was still just 2-1 when Haniger dived for McCann’s shot down the right-field line with the bases loaded.

And it appeared for an second or two like the score might stay right at 2-1 as the ball initially lay tantalizingly in Haniger’s glove.

But as he hit the ground the ball began to jostle loose, ultimately popping out. And with all three runners in motion with two outs, the game was basically decided by the time Haniger got to the ball again to throw it in.

It was Houston’s pitching that was in control all night, stymieing a Seattle offense that came in as hot as any in the major leagues.

Seattle had scored five or more runs in each of its last six games, averaging almost seven per game.

But the Mariners didn’t have a base runner until the fifth inning against starter Lance McCullers.

And unlike earlier this week when Seattle didn’t get a base runner until the sixth against Detroit’s Justin Verlander but busted loose for seven runs, knocking McCullers out of the game didn’t do any good as five Houston relievers held the Mariners to a run over the final four innings.

The Mariners loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth on a double and two walks, with Mike Zunino — having one of the best months in team history but given the night off — brought in to pinch-hit for Taylor Motter.

With Houston closer Ken Giles pitching carefully, Zunino walked on a full count to make it 5-2. But Carlos Ruiz struck out looking at a pitch after hitting a liner just foul down left field that could have tied the game.

Seattle’s only other run came on a single by Robinson Cano in the sixth as the Mariners also saw a streak of hitting a homer in a season-high eight games snapped.

The temptation would be to say that the Mariners played a bit too much like the 1977 squad, whose uniforms they wore as the team celebrated Turn Back the Clock Night.

But that would do a disservice to McCullers, who made his first start since June 8 after being on the disabled list because of lower-back discomfort but before that had been pitching as well as anyone in the major leagues.

McCullers was lifted after giving up two hits to start the sixth, throwing just 76 pitches as the Astros were careful with him.

But during his five-plus innings, he kept the Mariners off-balance with a curveball that manager Scott Servais said before the game is as good as any in the majors.

That was evident in the second when McCullers struck out Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Haniger, each on curves.

McCullers was handed a lead when Josh Reddick hit a two-run homer off Seattle starter Sam Gaviglio in the third.

But otherwise it was the kind of start Seattle has come to expect from the rookie, who is filling the place of Hisashi Iwakuma in the starting rotation. Gaviglio allowed just two runs in six innings and has allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his seven starts going at least five innings in each.

Seattle was still in it in the seventh when the Astros used two singles sandwiching a catcher’s interference on Ruiz that allowed Reddick to load the bases with two outs.

Reliever Steve Chisek worked a 2-2 count on McCann, the second strike coming on a pitch that McCann thought was outside on a night when each team seemed baffled by the strike zone of home plate umpire Mark Ripperger.

On the next pitch came the liner to right, Haniger’s dive, and a game that, like the ball, just seemed a little out of reach all night.

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Sam Gaviglio throws against the Houston Astros on Saturday. [THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]