Astros top Felix to climb in Wild Card chase

Astros top Felix to climb in Wild Card chase

SEATTLE -- Collin McHugh continued his mastery of the Mariners with seven scoreless innings on Friday as the Astros snapped Seattle's eight-game winning streak with a 6-0 victory over Felix Hernandez in the series opener at Safeco Field.

The loss leaves the Mariners three games behind the Orioles and Blue Jays in the chase for the American League's two Wild Card spots at 78-69 with 15 games remaining, while the Astros moved into a tie with the Yankees and to one game behind the Mariners and Tigers at 77-70.

New York and Detroit lost on Friday, while Baltimore and Toronto won.

McHugh allowed just two hits with two walks and six strikeouts and is 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA in four starts against Seattle. The Astros have won nine of 14 against their AL West rivals, with five games still to go in the final two weeks.

"We just match up pretty well with them," McHugh said. "Whether it's pitch mix or pitching in this park, there are times I've been able to throw against this team and have some success. I don't know what the formula is."

Hernandez lasted just 4 1/3 innings in his second-shortest start of the year, as he surrendered eight hits and six runs (five earned) in falling to 11-6 with a 3.79 ERA. The Astros knocked Hernandez out in the fifth with solo home runs by Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez.

Felix escapes jam

"That was a bad ballgame all the way around," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "We didn't pitch very well and the defense was not good. And McHugh pitched a very good ballgame against us. He certainly had us off-balance. But it's frustrating. We were playing really good ball, and to come in here and kind of throw a clunker out there, not exactly what we were looking for tonight."

Gattis' long solo homer

McHugh comes through: McHugh gave the Astros' struggling rotation a huge lift with his performance, while giving the bullpen some much-needed rest as well. It was the longest outing by an Astros starter since Dallas Keuchel went eight innings on Aug. 21 against Baltimore. Astros starters had a 7.17 ERA in 13 starts in the month of September entering Friday's game.

"We needed that on a lot of levels," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "One, every game is magnified this time of year, and No. 2, we're playing a team that we're chasing. No. 3, our bullpen has just been used such a high rate. … Collin was fantastic tonight. He did everything you would ever ask out of a starting pitcher, and did it with relative ease in terms of not having many innings he was taxed. It was a really good performance."

McHugh's scoreless start

He doesn't need help: Jose Altuve has been virtually unstoppable against the Mariners all season, hitting .434 (23-for-53) in 14 games. He added a double and single Friday after getting the starting nod despite a sore oblique. And the Mariners added to their own Altuve misery by committing errors on two other ground balls, a misplay by shortstop Ketel Marte in the third inning and a ball off the end of third baseman Kyle Seager's glove in the fourth. Altuve wound up scoring an unearned run following Marte's miscue on Carlos Correa's double.

"It was a bad game defensively," said Servais after his team's three-error outing. "There's no excuse for that. Plays that should have been made, balls that weren't caught. It kind of added to what they did. But they beat us tonight. We didn't play very well."

Correa's run-scoring double

Bullpen shuts it down: The one positive for the Mariners was a strong outing from the relievers after Hernandez's departure, as four hurlers combined to hold the Astros scoreless on one hit with seven strikeouts over the final 4 2/3 innings. Rookie Dan Altavilla continued to impress with two strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings after taking over for Hernandez. Vidal Nuno threw a perfect seventh and the Mariners were encouraged by a strong bounceback from Arquimedes Caminero, who struck out three in his 1 2/3 innings. Pat Venditte finished things off, striking out Colby Rasmus while throwing left-handed.

By scoring his 100th run of the season in the third inning, Altuve and George Springer became the first Astros teammates to reach 100 runs in a season since Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman in 2004.

"We didn't chase a lot tonight, and if you don't chase with him and you make him bring the ball in the strike zone, he's human again." -- Hinch, on facing Hernandez.

"We still have many games left. These are like playoff games for us. Every single game, we have to fight. It's really hard to win every single game. We just have to keep fighting." -- Mariners center fielder Leonys Martin.

Mariners pinch-hitter Guillermo Heredia lined a shot down the first-base line leading off the bottom of the ninth, with first-base umpire Paul Emmel ruling the ball foul as it landed excruciatingly close to the chalk. After a review, the call stood and Heredia wound up flying out to left field.

Ball ruled foul after review

Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers (10-7, 4.64 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros in Saturday's 8:10 p.m. CT game at Safeco Field against the Mariners. Fiers was rocked for seven runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings Sunday against the Cubs in Houston.

Mariners: James Paxton (4-6, 3.97) gets the start in Saturday's 6:10 p.m. PT rematch. The 27-year-old lefty threw six innings of two-run ball in a victory at Oakland in his last outing. He lost his only previous meeting with Houston this season, allowing nine hits and six runs in five innings in a defeat on July 15 in Seattle.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.