SEATTLE (AP) — Seth Smith hit a pair of home runs and drove in four to back up a solid outing by Ariel Miranda and the Seattle Mariners remained in the thick of the congested wild-card race with a 7-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Sunday.
The Mariners (79-70) are tied with Detroit (79-70), which beat Cleveland 9-5. Seattle came into the day trailing Toronto, which holds the second wild card spot, by two games.
Smith had a solo shot in the third and a three-run blast in the fourth, both on 3-1 pitches from Doug Fister (12-12). He now has 16 home runs on the season, one short of his career high.
Miranda (5-1), acquired in a trade with Baltimore on July 31 for lefty Wade Miley, went seven innings — his longest outing in 10 starts with Seattle — allowing two runs on three hits. He walked one and struck out eight.
Kyle Seager opened the scoring with a two-run double in the first. He has hit safely in 18 of his last 20 games at Safeco Field, batting .400 (28 of 70).
George Springer had a solo shot to lead off the second for the Astros. It was his 28th on a 3-2 pitch. That ended Miranda’s 19-inning scoreless string, the fifth longest for a rookie in Mariners history.
Carlos Correa also had a solo home run in the seventh, his 20th.
The Mariners have won nine of their last 11 games.
With Jandel Gustave’s strikeout of Shawn O’Malley in the sixth, the Astros staff established a club record for strikeouts with 1,283. They’ve done it without even a 200-strikeout pitcher. “For the most part we have a few guys who can spin their breaking balls when they need to,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “and the changeup is a big component of our pitching staff.”
SLOW START; FAST FINISH
Nori Aoki, who was sent to the minors twice this season to work on his offense, has found his batting eye this month. Entering the game, he was hitting .387 in September, fifth best in the American League. He had been hitting .255 overall to start the month. For his career, he is a .324 hitting in September, fourth best among active players. He had two hits Sunday.
Mariners: 1B Adam Lind had not played since Sept. 12 with a sprained finger in his right hand but was back in the lineup Sunday, missing five games.
Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada (8-9, 3.78) has lost his past three starts and five of his last six decisions. He has allowed 12 earned runs in his last 12 2-3 innings. He lost a 2-1 decision to Seattle July 22 in Toronto. He is 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA in three career starts against Seattle.
Mariners: RHP Taijuan Walker (6-10, 4.28) is coming off his best starting effort of his career (59 starts). He allowed just three hits and no runs – first career shutout – in an 8-0 win over the L.A. Angels. He had a no-hitter through 5 2-3 innings. He is 0-2 with a 3.66 ERA in three career starts against the Blue Jays but has not faced them this season.