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Haniger's bat keys Mariners' win over Astros

Cruz paces eighth-inning rally with two-run double
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

HOUSTON -- Mitch Haniger says it doesn't matter where he hits in the lineup, but the Mariners' right fielder seems to have found a happy home in the leadoff role for a Seattle club that topped the Astros, 5-2, on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

Seattle's All-Star right fielder went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, driving in a run in the sixth and then scoring the go-ahead tally in the eighth as the Mariners beat the American League West-leading Astros for a second straight night. Seattle moved to within 1 1/2 games of the A's for the second AL Wild Card spot with Oakland's loss to the Angels.

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HOUSTON -- Mitch Haniger says it doesn't matter where he hits in the lineup, but the Mariners' right fielder seems to have found a happy home in the leadoff role for a Seattle club that topped the Astros, 5-2, on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

Seattle's All-Star right fielder went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, driving in a run in the sixth and then scoring the go-ahead tally in the eighth as the Mariners beat the American League West-leading Astros for a second straight night. Seattle moved to within 1 1/2 games of the A's for the second AL Wild Card spot with Oakland's loss to the Angels.

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Haniger is 6-for-9 with a home run, four doubles and three RBIs in his first two games since replacing Dee Gordon at the top of the Mariners' order to key a revitalized offense that has beaten Astros standouts Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole to open the four-game series.

"It's always a challenge, but these are the types of arms you have to play and face in the playoffs," Haniger said. "That's where we want to be. That's the goal. We've just got to focus on each series and each game at a time and we'll get there."

Video: SEA@HOU: Haniger rips an RBI double in the 6th

Haniger's second double kick-started a three-run rally in the eighth that was capped by Nelson Cruz's bases-loaded two-run double that gave Seattle the lead for good.

"He definitely gets hits at the right time," Cruz said of Haniger, who has hit .417 (15-for-36) over his last nine games. "Leading off, it's almost like he's getting on base every at-bat and that's setting the table for us."

The Mariners also received continued production from veteran Denard Span, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored and is 5-for-7 in two games hitting behind Haniger in the two-spot.

Seattle (67-50) moved within six games of the first-place Astros, who have lost six straight home games for the first time since 2014, though they still are 73-44.

"They've got a really good club," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "You've got to pitch them really well. You've got to keep them down, because you know it's going to be tight ballgames here, and we got some big hits late. Nice win. We came here and wanted to start playing some better games and that's what we've done. We're just playing better baseball right now, and the top of the lineup has been really swinging the bat well."

Video: SEA@HOU: Servais on Leake's outing, offense in win

Mariners starter Mike Leake pitched well, allowing two runs on eight hits over six innings. He is 0-3 in eight starts since his last victory on June 23, though he's exactly matched his season ERA of 4.11 in that span.

Although Leake again didn't get the win in this one, he did his job in dueling Cole to a draw until the Mariners' offense delivered the kind of late rally that fueled the club's first-half success.

"This is what we're going to be facing if we're in the hunt," Leake said of the Astros' pitching. "It's nice to see we're scraping some games out."

Video: SEA@HOU: Leake gives up 2 runs over 6 solid frames

New Mariners reliever Adam Warren picked up the win with a scoreless seventh inning, while setup man Alex Colome extended his shutout streak to 17 2/3 innings with a perfect eighth before Edwin Diaz notched his Major League-leading 44th save.

Video: SEA@HOU: Diaz notches 44th save of the year

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Cruz's clutch hit: Cruz's bases-loaded double in the eighth was the go-ahead blow, as the big designated hitter battled his way back from an 0-2 count against Astros reliever Ryan Pressly, working the count full before driving a 96-mph fastball to center field.

"I was looking for something I could drive, at least a fly ball so we could score one run and get the lead," Cruz said. "I got the right pitch."

SOUND SMART
Diaz converted his 25th straight save opportunity, the third-longest streak in Mariners history behind 31 from J.J. Putz in 2006-07 and 27 by Eddie Guardado in 2005. He's allowed just one run in 25 1/3 innings in that span, with 42 strikeouts. His 44 saves is already third most in Mariners history for a single season, behind Fernando Rodney's 48 in 2014 and Kazuhiro Sasaki's 45 in 2001.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Mariners scored twice off Cole in the sixth to tie the game at 2 on an RBI double by Haniger and run-scoring infield single by Span. But with two outs and runners on first and second, Kyle Seager drove a line drive into the left-center-field gap that appeared destined to be a go-ahead double with two on base … until Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick flew over to make a full-out diving catch.

"When I hit it, I didn't even see him," said Seager. "I was pretty excited going down the line, but I got un-excited pretty quick. That was a nice play."

Video: SEA@HOU: Marisnick makes tremendous diving snag

HE SAID IT
"That's why he's one of the best in the game. His job is to drive in runs and he's done it all his career. To me, he's one of the best DHs in the game. To be able to share a team with a guy like Nelly is an honor. It's amazing how this guy is old and he's still doing it. He's 38 and looks like he's still 30. The way he goes about his business, he's going to be here another 3-4 years." -- Mariners shortstop Jean Segura, on Cruz

X-RAYS NEGATIVE ON SEGURA
Segura said X-rays on his left wrist didn't show any broken bones after he was hit by a pitch in the eighth inning to load the bases for Cruz's go-ahead double.

"It's sore. The X-rays were negative. We'll see how it feels tomorrow, but right now, it's sore," said Segura, who was wearing an ice pack on his hand postgame.

Video: SEA@HOU: Segura gets hit in the hand in the 8th

UP NEXT
Wade LeBlanc (6-2, 3.81 ERA) has a tough matchup against Astros right-hander Charlie Morton (12-2, 2.81) in Saturday's 4:10 p.m. PT game at Minute Maid Park. LeBlanc has a 3.70 ERA in 18 starts since moving into the rotation, but his worst outing came vs. Houston on Aug. 1 when he allowed seven runs on 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings. He gave up just two hits and one run in 6 1/3 innings in his last outing at Texas.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Nelson Cruz, Mitch Haniger