SEATTLE (AP) George Kirby embraced the situation facing the Seattle Mariners. It wasn't a must-win for their playoff hopes. But it was close.
“I love it. Big games, I always want the ball. I love pitching against the Astros and it fires you up a little more,” Kirby said.
Kirby escaped an early bases loaded jam to throw six shutout innings, Seattle took advantage of three Houston errors, and the Mariners snapped a four-game losing streak with a 6-2 win over the Astros on Tuesday night.
Seattle pulled within a half-game of Houston for the final wild card spot in the American League and trails Toronto by two games after the Blue Jays lost at home to the Yankees. The Mariners also gained a game on Texas in the AL West after the Rangers lost to the Angels.
“It really makes it interesting tomorrow night and that’s the way it’s going to be down the stretch here,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “We've got to come out tomorrow with the same kind of fire in our belly, because it was there today.”
Houston didn’t help its cause matching a season-high with the three errors, two of which directly led to runs. Jose Altuve’s errant relay throw in the third inning allowed Mike Ford to score. In the fifth, Kyle Tucker’s throw from right field skipped away from third baseman Alex Bregman and into the Houston dugout allowing Julio Rodríguez to score.
“We didn’t play real well tonight. Kind of threw the ball around and then we didn’t back up the bases a couple times, so we didn’t play well tonight,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
Seattle also got a sacrifice fly from Rodríguez, and RBI singles from Cal Raleigh and Teoscar Hernández as the Mariners played with a lead for the first time in nearly a week. During its four-game losing streak, Seattle held the lead for only one half-inning.
Ty France homered for the first time since Aug. 15 with a solo shot in the eighth.
But Kirby (12-10) was the story for Seattle on a night the Mariners needed their young righty at his best.
“When you have the lead and you have George on the mound you feel really comfortable,” Hernández said.
Kirby allowed five hits and struck out four, but it was his escape act in the first inning that set the tone. Houston loaded the bases with one out, but Altuve was thrown out at home on José Abreu’s grounder and Yainer Diaz grounded out to shortstop J.P. Crawford to end the threat.
From there, Kirby cruised. He retired 13 straight before Jeremy Peña’s one-out single in the fifth. Peña was quickly retired after Raleigh threw out his 12th steal attempt in the month of September. Raleigh has caught 24 runners trying to steal this season, most in the majors.
Kirby has won his last two starts after a rough start to September.
“You just got to keep trusting your stuff and I'm not going to stray away from keep attacking the zone,” Kirby said. “I did a really good job of that tonight and sometimes you get rewarded for it.”
Houston starter Cristian Javier (9-5) didn’t make it through the fifth inning. Javier had to throw 34 pitches to get through the third inning and was lifted in the fifth after a single by Josh Rojas and a walk to Rodríguez.
Reliever Rafael Montero didn’t fare better, allowing all four batters he faced to reach. Raleigh’s single scored Rojas and Tucker’s throwing error let Rodríguez jog home. Raleigh scored on Hernández’s single.
Houston threatened in the seventh inning and Jon Singleton’s sacrifice fly with the bases loaded scored one run. But Matt Brash struck out Altuve and got a ground ball from Bregman to end the inning.
There was an unexpected moment of anxiousness for Kirby in the sixth inning after a foul ball hit into the stands behind the third base dugout was thrown back by a fan and grazed the pitcher. Kirby was looking toward home plate and asking for a new ball from the umpire.
The ball rolled over to first baseman Ty France, who threw it out of play.
“It was an impressive throw. I’ll give him that,” Kirby said. “But, you know, what the heck?”
The fan was quickly identified by stadium officials and escorted from their seat.
Astros: LH Framber Valdez (12-11, 3.39) has struck out 10 batters in two of his past three starts but lost both of those outings. Valdez gave up six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings in his last start against Kansas City.
Mariners: RHP Bryce Miller (8-6, 4.17) makes what could be his final start of the regular season. Miller has lost his last two decisions and Seattle has lost the last four games Miller has started. Miller was tagged for six runs and six hits in 4 1/3 innings in his last start against Texas.
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