HOUSTON -- On the day Seattle shortstop Jean Segura finally qualified with enough plate appearances to take over first place in the American League batting race, he impressed even more with some outstanding glovework to help the Mariners pull out a 9-7, 10-inning victory over the Astros on Monday at
HOUSTON -- On the day Seattle shortstop Jean Segura finally qualified with enough plate appearances to take over first place in the American League batting race, he impressed even more with some outstanding glovework to help the Mariners pull out a 9-7, 10-inning victory over the Astros on Monday at Minute Maid Park.
The Mariners won their fifth straight game -- and fourth since opening the second half on the road -- with a huge win over the American League West-leading Astros on the strength of a pair of 10th-inning homers by Kyle Seager and Danny Valencia.
But it was Segura who got the Mariners to that 10th with a trio of outstanding plays, including a backhanded stop deep in the hole and a hard throw to second baseman Robinson Cano for the inning-ending forceout to get reliever Yovani Gallardo out of a bases-loaded jam on a grounder by Alex Bregman.
Segura also made a stellar diving stop and threw out Marwin Gonzalez from his knee to get the first out of the inning after Josh Reddick led off with a double. He kept Reddick at third, and he wound up throwing out Reddick at home on a nice stop of a Norichika Aoki grounder with the infield in to deny the Astros again even before his spectacular inning-ending play.
"I think that changed the whole game," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It kept them in the game. Both plays were exceptional, and he also made the throw to home to get Reddick. It's hard to argue he didn't make the most important plays of the game."
Third baseman Seager thought Bregman's shot was going through the infield to end the game until he saw Segura come up with it and throw to second for the force.
"I didn't even come close, it was kind of a panic dive," Seager said. "I didn't think he'd be there, and he made it real clean. He was phenomenal. I don't know how he made the play on Gonzalez. Even the ball Nori hit to him, he came up and made a perfect throw home with a lot on it. He was absolutely phenomenal, and he saved us tonight."
Segura was known more as an offensive weapon when the Mariners acquired him from the D-backs, who played him at second base last season. And indeed, he now ranks first in the AL with a .349 average -- just ahead of Jose Altuve's .347 -- after his 2-for-5 day gave him enough plate appearances to qualify.
But he's been strong as well in the field.
"He plays the game easy, kind of like our second baseman [Robinson Cano] does," manager Scott Servais said. "But when it's crunch time like that, the play he made going to the backhand and rolling over and firing across the diamond to get Gonzalez was huge. You can't make a better play in that situation. He's having fun. He has a smile on his face, and all the guys should. They're playing well."
As good as the Gonzalez play was, Segura said the Bregman play was better.
"I think the last one was tougher," Segura said. "The first one I just reacted and got rid of it as quick as I can. The last one was more difficult."
Segura takes great pride in his defense and being back at shortstop this season. He says that is his position, and he loves being in the middle of the action.
And he's convinced the Mariners are still in the middle of the action as well, closing the gap in an AL Wild Card race in which they're suddenly just 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees for the No. 2 spot.
"That's what we're here for," Segura said. "If you go to the playoffs, these are the types of games you're going to play. That's our goal, and we're not that far back from the Wild Card. I know the division is hard to catch because the Astros have been incredible. But we've got a chance. We're right there."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [