HOUSTON (AP) Julio Rodríguez and Mike Ford homered, Bryce Miller threw 6 1/3 shutout innings and the Seattle Mariners extended their winning streak to four games with a 2-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday night.
The Mariners took a half-game lead over Toronto in the race for the third, and final, AL wild-card spot. Seattle trails Houston by 2 1/2 games for the second wild-card spot.
Rodríguez continued to swing a hot bat, finishing with four hits, including a solo home run to left field in the third. He had five hits and drove in five RBIs on Thursday and went 12 for 21 in the four-game series against the Royals.
Rodríguez said he couldn’t remember having a stretch like his current hot streak.
“It’s been a lot of ups and downs, but to have a stretch like this and to help the team, obviously, it’s huge,” Rodríguez said. “I’m just grateful I’m able to do this for the team, especially at this time that we need it. We need to win games.”
Rodríguez tied a club record by hitting safely in nine straight at-bats, but that run was halted on a fielding error by Jeremy Peña in the seventh. Danny Valencia, in June 2017, and Raúl Ibañez, in September 2004, also hit safely in nine consecutive at-bats for the Mariners.
“I’ve been watching Major League Baseball for a long, long time, and Julio is going really good,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “That’s as good as I’ve seen a player. The power, speed, driving the ball. It doesn’t matter what pitch it is. He’s on fire, and we’ve talked about when he gets on fire, he can really carry us. It’s fun to watch right now.”
Ford hit a solo home run to right in the sixth.
Miller (8-4) scattered two hits and struck out two.
“He had the breaking ball going,” Servais said. “He threw a lot of good two-seam fastballs tonight that really changed how they approached him, and he had a ton of success with it.”
The rookie right-hander retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced and set down eight straight before exiting following an error by José Caballero.
Miller, who had friends and family in the stands, went to college at Texas A&M, which is about 90 miles northwest of Houston.
“I haven’t thrown here since college, and obviously, it’s a little different atmosphere than college,” Miller said. “That was a lot of fun. I was glad I was able to go out there and perform well.”
Justin Topa threw 1 2/3 shutout innings, and Andrés Muñoz pitched the ninth for his sixth save.
The Mariners were 0 for 17 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base.
Houston threatened in the ninth. Jose Altuve led off with a single, but was retired on a fielder’s choice by Alex Bregman. Yordan Alvarez followed with an infield single, but Yainer Diaz hit into a double play to end it.
J.P. France (9-4) surrendered two runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts in six innings. The rookie right-hander has allowed three runs or fewer in 11 of his last 12 starts. His ERA is 2.75.
“He pitched out of trouble a lot, but that’s part of the maturation process is pitching out of trouble,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “He held them to two runs. He gave us an opportunity to win.”
Diaz had two hits. Altuve went 1 for 4 and has 1,998 hits for his career.
Astros: OF Kyle Tucker was scratched from Friday’s lineup due to illness. “We are hopeful this is a 24-hour thing, and if not, he’s a big guy to lose for any period time,” Baker said. … OF Michael Brantley (right shoulder surgery) was working out with the team Friday at Minute Maid Park and taking a scheduled day off from his rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Sugar Land. He will play again on Saturday and is playing every other day as of now, Baker said. Brantley is 2 for 7 in two games with Sugar Land. “I’m feeling well,” Brantley said. “Recovering well so far, so everything is positive and trending in the right direction.” Brantley, who has yet to play with Houston this season, does not have a timeline for when he might return to the Astros.
Houston RHP Framber Valdez (9-8, 3.31 ERA) starts Saturday opposite Seattle RHP Logan Gilbert (10-5, 3.80 ERA) in the second game of the three-game series.
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