HOUSTON -- Facing the defending World Series champion Astros isn't normally a cure for a cold ballclub, but don't tell the Mariners.With Wade LeBlanc and the Mariners bullpen holding Houston to five hits and center fielder Guillermo Heredia making a game-saving catch in the eighth inning, Seattle rolled to its
HOUSTON -- Facing the defending World Series champion Astros isn't normally a cure for a cold ballclub, but don't tell the Mariners.
With Wade LeBlanc and the Mariners bullpen holding Houston to five hits and center fielder Guillermo Heredia making a game-saving catch in the eighth inning, Seattle rolled to its third straight win over the American League West leaders with a 3-2 victory on Saturday at Minute Maid Park.
Heredia's diving play on a sinking liner by Tony Kemp turned into a double play and prevented at least a game-tying run from scoring in the eighth and likely more.
"What a catch," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "Everybody knows G is an awesome defender and never takes a play off, but that was the game. They had the hit-and-run on, and Kemp has been kind of a thorn in our side this whole series. He puts a good swing on the ball, and G comes out of nowhere to catch it."
The Mariners had lost 15 of their previous 22 games coming into the series, but they have beaten All-Star pitchers Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton on successive nights to reignite their postseason push. The win puts Seattle five games behind the American League West-leading Astros and within 1 1/2 games of Oakland for the second AL Wild Card spot.
It's a timely turnaround for Seattle, which is kicking off a tough stretch of 16 consecutive games vs. the Astros, A's, Dodgers and then the Astros again back in Seattle. Houston is 73-45 but has lost seven straight home games -- dating back to July 14 -- for the first time since 2013.
LeBlanc worked five innings and allowed two runs on three hits -- all in the second inning -- to stake Seattle to a 3-2 lead. The 33-year-old southpaw improved to 7-2 with a 3.80 ERA while picking up his first win in five career starts against the Astros.
Morton (12-3, 2.88 ERA) took the loss, as he allowed three runs on seven hits over six innings. All of Seattle's runs came in the fourth inning against Morton, as Kyle Seager ripped an RBI double, Chris Herrmann followed with a run-scoring triple and Ryon Healy drove him home with a base hit.
"As a team, we haven't really been having those big at-bats and stringing good ABs together," Herrmann said. "Just to go out and do it against a guy like Charlie Morton tonight was awesome. A lot of great things happened today. Our pitching was fantastic, we drove in runs when we needed and played really good defense."
Healy went 3-for-4 with two doubles, while Nelson Cruz had a pair of singles to pace the Mariners' 10-hit attack. While Healy's two extra-base hits were scorched, his game-winning single in the fourth was a 58.4-mph roller that just squeezed down the line past first baseman Tyler White and was the slowest-hit fair ball by any batter in the game.
"Man, I couldn't have rolled that ball any better," Healy said. "Unbelievable."
Seattle's bullpen came up big again, as five relievers split the final four scoreless frames while allowing just two hits. Heredia made his outstanding catch to turn a double play and help Alex Colome extend his scoreless-innings streak to 18 2/3 innings in the eighth, and Edwin Diaz came on for his third save in three days and MLB-leading 45th on the season.
Diaz is now tied for the second-most saves in a Mariners season with Kazuhiro Sasaki and just three shy of tying Fernando Rodney's club record. He's on pace for 62 saves for the year, which would tie the MLB record set by Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels in 2008.
"I feel great," Diaz said. "I'm just coming in nice and easy and throwing strikes."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Herrmann triples in rally: Herrmann runs well for a catcher, and Seattle's backup backstop laced his second triple of the season in the fourth inning to tie the game at 2, and then he scored on Healy's single. Herrmann now has seven triples in 326 games in his Major League career. which is five more than starter Mike Zunino has hit in 550 games.
"I've got a little bit of speed, I guess," said Herrmann, who joins Baltimore's Caleb Joseph as the only catcher in the AL with two triples this season despite playing just 18 games. "I know catchers are known to be big and slow, but I'm not very big and I've been blessed to be able to run a little bit."
The Mariners are now 29-14 in one-run games, the most one-run wins in the Majors. Diaz leads the Majors with 23 saves in one-run games. And he's on quite a roll, having converted 26 straight save opportunities, the third-longest streak in club history. He's allowed one run in 26 1/3 innings in that stretch with 44 strikeouts.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Heredia saved the day for Colome in the eighth inning as he raced into the right-center-field gap and made a sprawling catch to rob Kemp of a potential double, then got to his feet and easily doubled pinch-runner Derek Fisher off first, as he'd already rounded second when Heredia came up with the ball. Alex Bregman followed with a single that would have done further damage, but instead came with the bases empty. Heredia's play had just an 18-percent catch probability, per Statcast™, as he covered 74 feet in just 4.1 seconds. It was Heredia's first 5-Star rated catch (the highest Statcast™ ranking) of the year. He's had seven 4-Star catches.
"It was not my best catch, but it meant a lot because it saved the game," Heredia said through translator Nasusel Cabrera. "I haven't been hitting well, so I had to find a way to help the team to win."
HE SAID IT
"That's exactly why. There's no batting average or number really attached to the defense to help people understand the impact of it. But G is the best defender we've got out there. It is big in these tight games to be able to put him out there for defense. Everybody has to chip in, and that's what he does. I've always said, 'Just do your job,' and he certainly did his tonight." -- Servais, on Heredia and why the club kept him over Ben Gamel after Cameron Maybin was acquired by trade two weeks ago
Erasmo Ramirez (0-2, 10.24 ERA) is expected to be brought off the 10-day disabled list to take Felix Hernandez's spot for Sunday's 11:10 a.m. PT series finale at Minute Maid Park. Ramirez posted a 3.35 ERA in his final nine starts for Seattle last season after being acquired from the Rays, but he dealt with injuries all spring and didn't pitch well in two April starts before going on the DL with a strained shoulder. He'll face Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel (9-9, 3.53).
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.