SEATTLE -- If the thick smoked that enveloped Safeco Field on Monday night wasn't enough to choke the Astros, the Mariners' relentless lineup certainly wasn't about to let the defending World Series champs breathe.
The Mariners banged out 14 hits, including seven extra-base hits, and had runners on base in every inning, including the eighth when Robinson Cano banged a go-ahead three-run homer off Collin McHugh to send Seattle to a 7-4 win -- its fifth in a row over Houston in the past two weeks.
"They outhit us and put a lot of pressure on us from the very beginning of the game," manager AJ Hinch said. "We had one baserunner after the third inning. They did enough to win the game, obviously, with some big at-bats. We got out of some jams and were fortunate to keep it where it was at the time, but they continued to battle and came up with some big swings."
The Astros, who have lost eight of 10 games, are tied with the A's for first place with the Mariners lurking 3 1/2 games back in the American League West race.
"We just have to play consistent baseball through the end of the season, and I think we're pretty confident if we do that we're going to win this division," McHugh said. "That's where our minds are at. That's where we're headed. We have some work to do tomorrow."
Cano was in the final days of serving his 80-game suspension when the Mariners swept the Astros in four games last week at Minute Maid Park, and he proved to be the difference-maker on Monday when he hit a 1-0 McHugh fastball over the wall in left-center to snap a 4-4 tie.
"He's a great player," Hinch said. "He's a big addition. It's like making a huge trade at the Deadline for a middle-of-the-order bat. It's hard to navigate through him. He's been historically tough on us, this season has been tough on us and tonight has been tough on us."
McHugh (5-2) said the pitch to Cano was supposed to be a fastball away, but it caught more of the plate than he wanted to.
"He is who he is for a reason," McHugh said. "We saw what he's capable of doing today in big situations. I've got to pitch a little better than that."
Marwin Gonzalez, who had three of his club's five hits, helped the Astros to a 4-2 lead after three innings against Felix Hernandez by hitting a solo homer in the first and a two-run double in the third. Houston starter Gerrit Cole allowed a pair of runs in a messy first inning and wound up giving up three (two earned) and seven hits in five inconsistent innings in a no-decision.
"They just battled me tonight," Cole said. "They hit a lot of good pitches. Two of the hits were poor pitch selection or poor pitch execution. For the most part, I think just a lot of credit goes to them. They're tough outs throughout the entire night from every single inning."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Dee Gordon beat out an infield hit with one out in the eighth after arguing a called strike during the at-bat that wound up getting Mariners manager Scott Servais ejected. Gordon hit a grounder to the right side of the infield that was fielded by first baseman Tyler White, but McHugh was late covering first and the speedy Gordon beat the play. That set up the inning, with Mitch Haniger drawing a walk before Cano's homer.
"I was a step slow," McHugh said. "I thought he hit it a little harder than he did and I thought it was right at Whitey. I saw it hit the ground and knew I was going to have to hustle, but he's fast. That set the tone for the rest of that inning. It's unfortunate, but the way it worked."
Gonzalez is hitting .375 with seven runs, two doubles, one triple, three homers and 10 RBIs this season against the Mariners. Three of his five three-hit games have been against Seattle.
Reigning American League Most Valuable Player Jose Altuve will return from the disabled list after missing 21 games with a sore knee at 9:10 p.m. CT on Tuesday against the Mariners at Safeco Field. Right-hander Brad Peacock will come out of the bullpen to start for the Astros in the first of what's likely to be a steady stream of relievers. Right-hander Mike Leake (8-7, 3.90 ERA) will start for Seattle.