Astros edge Mariners in Wild Card showdown

September 18th, 2016

SEATTLE -- Thanks to a strong outing by and a timely hit by Yulieski Gurriel, the Astros elevated themselves back into the thick of the American League Wild Card chase on Saturday with a 2-1 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field.

Fiers fired six scoreless innings of three-hit ball and Gurriel laced a two-run single off Mariners lefty in the sixth as Houston won its third straight game and pulled into a three-way tie with Seattle and Detroit at 78-70, three games back of the Orioles and Blue Jays, the Wild Card leaders.

"We needed all the good pitching we could get, based on how their guy was throwing," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It was another good outing by our starters, and if we can get that, we're a pretty interesting team. We usually find a way. I like the tone our starters have set the last couple of days."

After winning eight straight games, the Mariners have dropped the first two games of the series and are 5-10 against their AL West rivals with four meetings between the clubs remaining in the final 14 games of the season.

"Coming into the game, I thought if we could hold them to two runs, we'd be in pretty good shape," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "But their guy threw the ball very well. Give him some credit. And our guys were a little anxious. I think you could see that."

Paxton had a perfect game for five innings before giving up three hits in the sixth -- a leadoff single by , a double by and Gurriel's two-out single to left. The 27-year-old Canadian finished having allowed two runs on four hits in seven innings, but fell to 4-7 with a 3.88 ERA.

"At one point, you get a little bit nervous when you get to the middle part of the game and we hadn't had a baserunner," Hinch said. "We'd only had one three-ball count, which I think was in the fifth inning with Marwin. We just had to wait him out to get a good pitch."


On Fiers: Fiers followed up seven scoreless innings by in Friday's series opener by throwing six scoreless innings without allowing a runner to reach third base. It's the first time the Astros have gotten consecutive scoreless outings of at least six innings from their starting pitchers since Aug. 24-25, 2015 ( and , against the Yankees).

"He's got a lot of pitches he can go to and he's hard to center up," Hinch said. "I do expect him on any given night to come out and give a good performance. This is a good ballpark for him to pitch in. When he throws strikes and he mixes his pitches, he's good." More >

Prime outing for Paxton: The Mariners lefty retired the first 15 batters he faced and was mixing an outstanding curve with his 96-97 mph fastballs all night. It was his second time this season throwing at least seven innings while allowing two runs or fewer, four or fewer hits and no walks, one of only eight AL pitchers who've done that multiple times.

"He hasn't had the best of luck all the time and we haven't scored him a ton of runs, but I'm really happy with his development and where it's headed going forward," said Servais. More >

Missing in action: The Mariners came into this series leading the Majors in runs scored in September, but they have struggled mightily against the Astros and had an 18-inning scoreless streak going until 's one-out RBI double in the eighth. Servais said the Astros have thrown a lot of offspeed pitches to take advantage of Seattle's eagerness at the plate the past two games.

"They're pitching backward in the fastball counts, slowing it down," he said. "We're aggressive, we're juiced up, we want to make something happen and you have to slow yourself down in those spots. And we will. I believe in our guys, and we'll make the adjustments."

Gregerson escapes: Astros reliever allowed a single and Smith's RBI double with one out in the eighth, but the veteran came back to strike out before getting to pop out to shallow left-center field on the next pitch to strand the tying run at second base. That's only the fifth earned run Gregerson has allowed in 28 games since June 6.

"It's no surprise with [Gregerson]," Hinch said. "He's been a closer. He's been an eighth-inning guy for a long time. He's very calm. Obviously, the big hit by Smith makes things really, really interesting. It gets a guy on second base. Cano's not easy to navigate; he's hit him pretty well in the past. Cruz, he's handled OK, but he's always a big threat in the middle of the order. We won the competitive at-bats we needed to on both sides of the ball, and that's why we won."

Defense not a problem this time: The Mariners committed three errors and were sloppy in the field in Friday's 6-0 loss, but the gloves were fine in this one. Smith made a long running catch in right to flag down a drive in the second inning, third baseman made a leaping catch to rob on a line drive leading off the eighth and center fielder followed with a catch at the wall on a blast by that same frame.


"We were in a worse position before the eight-game winning streak, so I don't think anybody is necessarily pressing. I think we've just run into two good pitching performances. -- Seager, on the Mariners' scoring drought


Astros: Right-hander (12-11, 4.17 ERA) gets the ball for the Astros in Sunday's 3:10 p.m. CT series finale against the Mariners. Fister has struggled lately, going 0-3 with a 9.35 ERA in his last four starts. He's allowed 32 hits in 17 1/3 innings in that stretch, and the Astros are 0-4 in those games.

Mariners: (4-1, 4.10 ERA) starts Sunday's 1:10 p.m. PT series finale. The 27-year-old southpaw is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA over his last three outings, including six scoreless innings with three hits allowed against the Angels on Monday. This will be his first time facing the Astros.

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