HOUSTON -- Leave it to Mariners slugger Robinson Cano to deliver a staggering blow to the Astros' postseason hopes.
Cano launched a three-run homer in the first inning -- his ninth against Houston in 19 games this year -- off struggling starter Doug Fister, and Kyle Seager added a three-run homer in the eighth to send Seattle to a 12-4 rout on Wednesday afternoon in the final regular-season game of the year at Minute Maid Park.
"We have a shot," Seager said as the Mariners prepared to head home for their final four games with an American League Wild Card berth still possible. "We obviously need some help. We can't control that, but we just need to continue to play as long as they'll let us."
The Mariners remained two games back of the Orioles for the second spot in the AL Wild Card race, while the Astros dropped to 3 1/2 games back with three remaining. The O's, who rallied to beat the Blue Jays on Wednesday night, maintained a one-game lead over the Tigers, who beat the Indians, 6-3, in a rain-shortened game.
"This is not a position that we're happy to be in, but it's the position we are in," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
Seattle starter James Paxton (6-7) struck out eight batters in five innings, allowing three runs and six hits. Fister (12-13), meanwhile, lost his fifth consecutive decision as he lasted a career-low 1 1/3 innings, allowing five runs and five hits. Houston dropped his final seven starts of the season.
George Springer went deep for the 29th time this season to get the Astros on the board in the third, and Evan Gattis blasted his 32nd homer to lead off the sixth and cut the lead to 7-4. The Mariners put the game away in the eighth when Seager's 30th homer of the season off Pat Neshek pushed the lead to 12-4.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Cano keeps crushing: The Mariners' second baseman closed out a huge year against the Astros with his three-run opposite-field blast in the first off Fister, which raised his career-high home run total to 36 and put his RBI total at 97. Nine of those homers and 25 of the RBIs have come in 19 games against Houston, as Cano hit .351 (27-for-77) on the season against the AL West rivals. He did significant damage at Minute Maid Park, where he was 20-for-42 (.476) with seven homers and 14 RBIs in 10 games.
"I love it, the way I'm swinging," Cano said of playing at Minute Maid. "I mean, it's like you play anywhere else. But it's just, some stadiums you hit better in than other ones."
September sinks Fister: It's been a month to forget for Fister, and Wednesday was the culmination of a rough September on the mound for the veteran right-hander, who surrendered 30 runs in 23 innings for a 11.74 ERA. In Wednesday's game, Fister quickly gave up five hits -- including Cano's three-run shot -- and five runs in only 1 1/3 innings. More >
Scribner applies the brakes: The Astros had cut the lead to 7-4 and had the tying run at the plate with no outs in the sixth, when Evan Scribner was called in after Nick Vincent gave up three straight hits in relief of Paxton. But the 31-year-old right-hander halted Houston's momentum by striking out Teoscar Hernandez and pinch-hitter Tony Kemp and then getting Springer to ground out. Scribner, who missed most of the year with a strained lat muscle, added a scoreless seventh, and he now has thrown 12 1/3 innings with no runs, five hits, two walks and 14 strikeouts since coming off the disabled list on Sept. 1.
"The level in which we fell behind, you need something good to happen to try to get a big number on the board, to try to get a two- or three-run double or a homer to try to catch up a lot in a hurry," Hinch said. "Gattis leads off with the homer and [we] got a couple of more runners and on, and couldn't put the ball in play against Scribner." More >
"I'm really happy for our guys. Last night was a tough one to swallow when we let it kind of slip away. Everybody contributed today. And we're still alive." -- Mariners manager Scott Servais
With Seager tallying his 30th homer to join Nelson Cruz (41) and Cano (36), the Mariners have their first trio of 30-homer players since Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner and Paul Sorrento in 1997.
Hinch successfully challenged an out call at the plate in the fifth inning. Jake Marisnick was originally called out on a headfirst slide at the plate while trying to score from second on a single by Bregman, but replays showed catcher Mike Zunino missed the tag and the call was overturned.
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners:Ariel Miranda (5-2, 4.10 ERA) gets the start Thursday at 7:10 p.m. PT as Seattle opens its final four-game homestand against the A's. The 27-year-old rookie southpaw will be facing the A's for the first time as he attempts to win his fifth game in September.
Astros: The Astros will take Thursday off before opening a three-game series at 9:05 p.m. CT Friday against the Angels in Anaheim. Houston will send Brad Peacock (0-0, 2.67 ERA) to the mound.