HOUSTON -- Daniel Vogelbach hasn't gotten much playing time since being called up this September, but the big rookie came through again Monday with a pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth inning to lift the Mariners to a 4-1 victory over the Astros at Minute Maid Park.Vogelbach's second home run
HOUSTON -- Daniel Vogelbach hasn't gotten much playing time since being called up this September, but the big rookie came through again Monday with a pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth inning to lift the Mariners to a 4-1 victory over the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Vogelbach's second home run in two days lifted his season -- and career -- total to four and this one breathed some life into a Mariners offense that had been shut out to that point despite eight walks and five hits.
Vogelbach turned around a 98 mph fastball from Hector Rondon, clearing the fence in right center with a two-out shot projected at 398 feet by Statcast™. The 25-year-old now has two homers in six at-bats in September.
Vogelbach had been 1-for-14 with six strikeouts and one walk as a pinch-hitter in his limited time in the Mariners over the past three seasons. He joins Franklin Gutierrez (2015) and Ben Broussard (2007) as the only Mariners in franchise history with pinch-hit grand slams.
"I think I've learned my lesson pinch-hitting and failing multiple times with trying to be really patient and trying to work an at-bat like I was starting," Vogelbach said after jumping on Rondon's 1-1 fastball. "So I was going up there trying to get something elevated and hard and put a good swing on it and see what happens."
The sudden turnabout set closer Edwin Diaz up for his 56th save as he shut down the Astros in the ninth and now sits alone with the third-most saves in a season in MLB history behind only Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels in 2008 with 62 and Bobby Thigpen of the White Sox in 1990 with 57.
Diaz is 8-for-8 in save opportunities against the Astros this year, allowing just two hits and one run with one walk and 13 strikeouts in eight innings against the defending World Series champs. He's saved each of Seattle's five straight wins at Minute Maid Park.
The grand slam was the first allowed by the Astros this season and kept them -- for a day at least -- from mathematically eliminating the Mariners in the American League West race. The Mariners improved to 83-67, and their elimination number in the division race remains at two and their Wild Card elimination number still sits at six with 12 games remaining.
Wade LeBlanc allowed just three hits and one run in 5 1/3 innings, leaving his record at 8-4 with a 3.49 ERA. The lefty's only run came on back-to-back doubles by Yuli Gurriel and Marwin Gonzalez in the fourth.
Mariners manager Scott Servais credited LeBlanc and the rest of his team for battling through a tough game after a four-hour flight delay out of Anaheim on Sunday night led to a 3 a.m. arrival at their Houston hotel on Monday.
"We had a horrific travel day due to some mechanical issues with the plane and it's tough," Servais said. "Guys were dragging and tired, but they showed up tonight and kept grinding. And it starts with our starting pitcher. Wade kept us in the ballgame and threw really well against a team that's been hot."
Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick made two excellent diving plays to rob Ryon Healy and Robinson Cano earlier in the eighth as Houston appeared intent on preserving its 1-0 lead, but Denard Span drew a two-out walk and Vogelbach did the rest.
"Jake has done that to us a few times," said Servais. "He's a really good defender, no question about it. The ball that Healy hit and the one that Cano hit, you're thinking, 'Gosh, it may not be our night.' But we figured out a way to hit one where he couldn't catch it."
"That's a big spot in the game and I'm pretty competitive and I want to win," Vogelbach said. "I want to be in that spot 10 out of 10 times. Whether I fail or succeed, I want to be the guy up there. That's how I've been since I was a kid and I'm thankful that Skip gave me the opportunity to hit up there. I'll take that opportunity every time."
Mitch Haniger continues to shine both with the bat and glove. The All-Star right fielder threw out Astros catcher Martin Maldonado trying to stretch a single in the fifth inning for his 12th outfield assist of the season, tying him with Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton for the most in the Majors. Haniger has two more outfield assists than any other right fielder in either league.
"It's unbelievable how accurate his arm has become," Servais said. "He's certainly got enough arm strength to finish and throw guys out. All those plays, they add up in a 1-0 game and you're just trying to hang in there til we could get that big rally going."
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Guillermo Heredia also helped LeBlanc out defensively in the fifth inning when he raced in on a high popup into shallow center field by Evan Gattis to make a sliding catch just before the ball hit the turf. Heredia reached an elite speed level of 30.1 feet per second, according to Statcast™, covering 100 feet in 5.3 seconds. The play had a 50 percent catch probability, making it a four-star play on Statcast™'s rating system.
"I didn't know whether to try to blow the ball to make it go further or keep it closer so Dee [Gordon] could get it," LeBlanc said. "I was just hoping somebody could get there. Those are two guys with pretty good range."
HE SAID IT
"You learn very quickly up here that they don't care what you've done down there. They're going to attack you until you prove you can hit. It's a lot of lessons I've learned as I've kept going, and it's just being aggressive, staying on the fastball and reacting to other things.". -- Vogelbach, on the difference in how he's pitched in the Majors as opposed to Triple-A
Mike Leake (10-9, 3.99 ERA) gets the start in Tuesday's 5:10 p.m. PT game at Minute Maid Park against Astros rookie right-hander Josh James (0-0, 4.22). Leake has allowed just one earned run with 11 hits, one walk and nine strikeouts over 13 innings in his last two outings, both wins over the Orioles and Angels. He's 0-2 with a 5.00 ERA in three starts against Houston this year.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.