Correa, Altuve spark rally but Astros fall in 11th
By Greg Johns and Brian McTaggart
HOUSTON -- Robinson Cano continued his assault on Astros pitching, edging the Mariners closer in the American League Wild Card chase in the process while pushing Houston closer to elimination.
Cano clubbed two home runs, including a long solo shot down the right-field line off Luke Gregerson in the 11th inning, to send the Mariners to a key, 4-3 win over the Astros in the series opener Monday night at Minute Maid Park.
The win pushed the Mariners to within two games of the Orioles, who were off Monday, and even with the Tigers in the race for the second AL Wild Card spot after the Tigers lost to Cleveland. The Astros dropped 3 1/2 games out with five games remaining. Houston has lost four of five games on its season-ending homestand.
"I'm not going to lie," Cano said. "We see it on the board and both those teams lost [Toronto and Detroit]. You go into the night hoping to win the game and we were able to come back and win it. We just have to keep fighting. This is the time where you have to give everything you've got. After this, you can go home and rest. We don't want to rest yet."
The Astros rallied in the bottom of the ninth after the Mariners used a throwing error by pitcher James Hoyt to take a 3-1 lead moments earlier. Jose Altuve drove in a run with a fielder's choice, stole second base and scored on a single by Carlos Correa to tie the game against rookie closer Edwin Diaz.
"That's the 2016 Mariners," manager Scott Servais said of the blown lead and comeback win. "Would anything else surprise you? We've had a lot of those."
Behind six strong innings from Hisashi Iwakuma and a solo homer by Cano in the second, the Mariners took a 2-1 lead to the ninth inning. Astros starter Collin McHugh, who was 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA in four starts against the Mariners this year, allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings.
"There's no doubt we need help," McHugh said. "We need some other teams to beat some other teams and we need to win the rest of them. It's no surprise at this point. We've battled hard and left everything we have out there. We've got five games to go out and prove ourselves and give ourselves a fighting chance."
The Mariners went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position, stranded 14 on base and struck out 16 times.
"The one situation we can't get out of is the 1-2 pitch to Cano," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Really, a good game on both sides. Everybody was fighting. Both teams really wanted this win. One swing of the bat, and they won. We didn't control Cano really at all."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Career high for Cano: It was fitting that Cano set a new career mark for home runs with his 34th and 35th blasts of the year, given the Mariners second baseman has built a good portion of his success this year just against the Astros. Cano is 17-for-33 (.515) with six homers and 11 RBIs in eight games at Minute Maid Park and 22 of his 94 RBIs on the season have come in 17 games against Houston. The 35 homers breaks his previous best of 33 with the Yankees in 2012 and ties the total he hit in his first two seasons in Seattle.
"Huge, huge game by Mr. Cano tonight," said Servais. "I can't say enough. He's got his timing and rhythm back. He's swinging at good pitches and the swing has come back. We certainly needed it."
Altuve fights: Houston's MVP candidate could've justifiably left the game in the top of the sixth after he hurt his wrist while diving for a Kyle Seager leadoff single, but Altuve instead fought hard to stay in the game. That determination paid off as Altuve singled in the following half-inning and drove home the first of Houston's two runs during the Astros' ninth-inning rally on an RBI fielder's choice. He then scored the tying run on a Correa single after stealing second. As if that weren't enough, Altuve also singled in the bottom of the 11th. More >
"Like I've said before and I've said this a hundred times, this is the team we are," Altuve said. "If we're going to win a game or we're going to lose a game, it's going to be this way -- the way we did it today."
Iwakuma rolls: The 35-year-old right-hander gave up two singles and a walk in the first two innings, but double-play grounders in each frame quickly ended those threats. He then recorded 13 straight outs before the Astros nicked him for a run on a walk and an RBI double by Marwin Gonzalez, though he escaped further damage when left fielder Norichika Aoki easily threw out Gonzalez trying to score on a single to left by Altuve.
"Overall for myself and for our team, you could see it out on the field, that adrenaline," Iwakuma said. "We needed to win tonight. It was a big game for us. And it worked out well. The last start I only went 3 1/3 and I wanted to do something about that. I'm very happy to contribute to the team."
Umpire interference costs key run: The Mariners missed out on a chance to take a 3-1 lead in the eighth when Seager ripped a single up the middle that caught second base umpire Jim Wolf flush in the thigh. Nelson Cruz was on second base and running on the play and seemed a safe bet to score, but MLB's umpire interference rule only allows a runner to advance if in a force situation. So Seager was awarded a single, but Cruz was sent back to second base. And both wound up stranded there when reliever Will Harris got Adam Lind out on a grounder to first and struck out Leonys Martin.
"You see it happen maybe once a year," said Servais. "Unfortunately in a big spot in a big game it happened to a guy who is a workout-aholic and in very good shape and everything else. He just didn't get out of the way. Very unfortunate. I wasn't very happy. But it's the rule. What are you going to do? Just another crazy, typical thing to happen to our season."
"We're going to continue to fight these last five games and see where it takes us, but certainly it's been disappointing thus far," -- Hinch on the team's 1-4 homestand, which came on the heels of a 5-1 road trip
"We've got a chance. That's what we've been playing for. You could feel it. They really believe. It's a big game tomorrow night. We've got to keep taking care of business here and hopefully get home for the weekend and still have a chance there." -- Servais on his team's postseason hopes
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When George Springer singled leading off the ninth against Diaz, it snapped a streak of 11 2/3 hitless innings by the Mariners' bullpen over the past four games. The 22-year-old rookie wound up allowing four hits and two runs as the Astros rallied to tie the game. Diaz had allowed just two hits and one run in 8 2/3 innings over his nine previous appearances in September.
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners:Felix Hernandez (11-6, 3.81 ERA) will try to carry the momentum of his last outing when he threw seven scoreless innings with two hits against the Blue Jays in Tuesday's 5:10 p.m. PT rematch with Houston. But Seattle's ace has struggled in the past at Minute Maid Park, where he's 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in five starts.
Astros: In his 30th start of the season, right-hander Mike Fiers (11-8, 4.40 ERA) takes the hill for the Astros Tuesday at Minute Maid Park in a 7:10 p.m. CT start. Fiers has put together quality starts in each of his last two outings, posting a 1.46 ERA while striking out 14 during that span.