(Photo credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)
Yordan Alvarez, Mauricio Dubon and Martin Maldonado each hit home runs as the Houston Astros improved their chances of making the postseason for the seventh consecutive year by defeating the host Seattle Mariners 8-3 Wednesday night.
The Astros (87-72) took two of three games in the series to move 1 1/2 games ahead of the Mariners (85-73) in the race for the American League's third and final wild-card playoff berth.
Houston relievers combined for five scoreless innings. Kendall Graveman (5-6) earned the victory.
J.P. Crawford homered leading off the bottom of the first for Seattle, which lost for the fifth time in its past six games.
Mariners rookie right-hander Bryce Miller, who hadn't allowed a run in two previous starts against the Astros, extended his scoreless streak against them to 15 1/3 innings before Alvarez led off the fourth with a blast to deep right-center field.
An out later, Jose Abreu and Michael Brantley, who missed the previous eight games with right shoulder soreness, grounded back-to-back singles to center. Dubon then lined a three-run shot just over the wall in left-center field to make it 4-1.
The Mariners, who stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings against Astros starter Framber Valdez, responded in the bottom of the fourth. Cal Raleigh and Sam Haggerty led off with singles before Jose Caballero grounded into a forceout, leaving runners at the corners. Crawford walked to load the bases. Valdez struck out Julio Rodriguez before Eugenio Suarez lined a two-run single to left to pull Seattle within 4-3.
The benches cleared after Astros reliever Hector Neris struck out Rodriguez to end the sixth inning. Neris walked toward Rodriguez and was seen jawing at the batter before Rodriguez stopped on his way to the dugout and started exchanging words. That prompted players from both teams to gather near the third-base line before order was restored.
That seemed to spark the Astros, who scored three times in the seventh and another in the eighth to pull away.
With one out in the seventh, Alex Bregman lined a single to right that got past outfielder Teoscar Hernandez for a two-base error. After an intentional walk to Alvarez, reliever Matt Brash came on and Kyle Tucker hit a run-scoring double into the right-field corner and Abreu and Brantley added RBI singles.
Maldonado hit a towering shot into the Astros' bullpen in left field leading off the eighth.
Miller (8-7) allowed four runs on six hits in four innings, with one walk and four strikeouts. Valdez also went four innings and gave up three runs on five hits, with five walks and seven strikeouts.
--Field Level Media