Loss to Mariners sets Astros back in WC race

Loss to Mariners sets Astros back in WC race

SEATTLE -- Seth Smith revived the Mariners' offense -- not to mention their postseason aspirations -- with two home runs and four RBIs and southpaw Ariel Miranda did the rest as Seattle salvaged the final game of its series against the Astros with a 7-3 win on Sunday at Safeco Field.

Smith's second multihomer game of the season helped Seattle snap a two-game skid and lifted the Mariners to two games back of the Blue Jays in the race for the American League's second Wild Card berth. Seattle and Detroit remain tied for the spot immediately behind the Wild Card leaders at 79-70 with 13 games remaining.

Smith was 0-for-10 in his career against Astros starter Doug Fister coming in, but worked a pair of 3-1 counts and got fastballs he could drive for his 15th and 16th home runs of the year, putting him one shy of his career high.

"Guys that know what they're doing when they're pitching are able to pitch to the corners," Smith said. "You want to take the close ones and get in the good hitter's counts where they have to come after you."

The Astros saw their three-game win streak end as they fell a game back of the Mariners and Tigers and three games behind Toronto in the Wild Card chase at 78-71. Fister lasted just 3 2/3 innings as he allowed eight hits and seven runs in falling to 12-12 with a 4.45 ERA.

"Overall, just a difficult time ending at-bats in his favor," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He would either fall behind or when he got ahead he couldn't end the at-bats."

The Astros launched long solo home runs, with George Springer going deep in the third and Carlos Correa belting one in the seventh, but that was all the damage they could muster against Miranda. The 27-year-old rookie allowed three hits and two runs in his longest stint of the year at seven innings, with one walk and a career-best eight strikeouts. He's 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA in eight starts since being acquired from the Orioles for Wade Miley on July 31.

Springer's solo home run

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Seager strikes early: After totaling just one run in the first two games of the series, Seattle struck quickly with Kyle Seager's two-run double in the first off Fister. Seager has been sizzling the past six weeks at Safeco Field, where he's hit .400 (28-for-70) with three doubles, five home runs, 15 RBIs and 16 runs over 20 games since Aug. 6.

"We really hadn't had much offense the first two games of the series, so it was nice to jump out to an early lead," said Seager. "And Smitty obviously got things going, too."

Seager's double plates two

Fister falters: The Astros' run of solid starting pitching came to an abrupt end when Fister was roughed up for the third time in his last four starts. Fister, who was the Astros' most consistent starting pitcher in the first half of the season, is 0-4 with a 10.71 ERA in his last five outings, with the Astros losing all five times he's been on the mound. More >

"You know what, I just didn't execute today," Fister said. "That's what it comes down to. Balls down, balls up, going all over the place. I let my team down."

Miranda mows 'em down: The lefty kept the Astros off base most of the afternoon. And when he did get in a little trouble in the second following a leadoff single by Correa and a walk to Evan Gattis, the Astros helped him out when Gattis ran into a double play on a fly ball to left fielder Norichika Aoki by Marwin Gonzalez. Correa tagged and faked going to third on the drive to the warning track before retreating to second. But Gattis thought Correa was going all the way and got caught in a rundown before being tagged out on the 7-5-3 double play. Miranda is 4-0 with a 2.16 ERA in four September starts. More >

"I don't think he's really thinking about the pennant race," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "He's doing what he needs to do to create a future for himself and along the way, we're benefiting. His confidence is growing and it's fun to watch."

Mariners double off Gattis

Record falls: Astros pitchers struck out six batters Sunday to set a club record with their 1,284 strikeouts this season, breaking the previous mark of 1,282 set by the 2004 team that included Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. Astros relief pitchers have accounted for nearly half of those, with a club-record 562 strikeouts for the bullpen. That is also the highest mark for relievers in the AL this season.

QUOTABLE
"Every win at this point is huge. Everything gets magnified here at the end, for sure. It's good to at least salvage this one and we've got a big series coming up." -- Seager as the Mariners prepare to host the Blue Jays the next three days at Safeco

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
When Miranda gave up a home run to Springer in the third, it ended a streak of 19 innings without an earned run allowed by the left-hander. That's the fifth-longest streak in Mariners history by a rookie, with Matt Young holding the record of 23 1/3 in 1983.

Correa is the youngest shortstop in baseball history to have consecutive seasons with at least 20 homers. His seventh-inning blast traveled a projected 450 feet, according to Statcast™.

Statcast: Correa's 450-ft homer

WHAT'S NEXT
Astros: Right-hander Brad Peacock (0-0, 2.70 ERA) will start for the Astros in Monday's 9:05 p.m. CT series opener at Oakland. Peacock is making just his third start of the season after being called up to replace the injured Dallas Keuchel. Peacock held Texas to one run in six innings in his most recent start Tuesday.

Mariners: Taijuan Walker (6-10, 4.28 ERA) pitches Monday's 7:10 p.m. PT series opener against the Blue Jays at Safeco Field against right-hander Marco Estrada (8-9, 3.78 ERA). Walker is coming off his first career shutout, a three-hit gem with no walks and 11 strikeouts against the Angels, and has won two straight since going to a revamped delivery.

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

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

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