Robinson Cano blasted two home runs, including a go-ahead, second-deck shot in the 11th inning, lifting the Mariners to a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros Monday night at Minute Maid Park (box). Seattle blew a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning, but Cano’s 35th homer, a career high, enabled the Mariners to make up ground on idle Baltimore in the AL wild card race.
Seattle built its two-run, ninth-inning margin on Nelson Cruz’s RBI ground-ball out in the first that scored Seth Smith, Cano’s 34th homer in the third, and Ben Gamel’s sacrifice that plated Ketel Marte in the ninth. But closer Edwin Diaz gave it back by allowing four hits in the ninth, sending the game into extras.
In the 11th, Cano drilled a fastball from Luke Gregerson high into the right-field seats. The Mariners improved to 83-73 and tied the Detroit Tigers, a 7-4 loser to Cleveland, for the No. 3 wild card mark.
The Mariners, who have six games remaining, and Tigers are two games behind Baltimore (85-71), off Monday, for the second wild card spot.
Toronto (86-70) retained the top spot despite a 7-5 loss to the New York Yankees. The Astros fell 3.5 back:
After Cano’s 11th-inning homer staked Seattle to a 4-3 lead, reliever Nick Vincent induced Marwin Gonzalez to pop out to third, but yielded consecutive singles to Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. Vincent punched out Evan Gattis and got pinch hitter Yulieski Gurriel to fly out to left to end the three hour, 52-minute contest.
Cano’s 35 home runs equal the number he hit in his first two years with the Mariners combined. Cano went 3-for-4, lifting his average to .298 . . . The Mariners collected 12 hits and got multi-hit games from Cruz (2-for-6), Kyle Seager (2-for-5) and Leonys Martin (2-for-5), but went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position, struck out 16 times and stranded 14 runners. In their past three contests, the Mariners are 1-for-29 with runners in scoring position . . . The Mariners missed scoring a run in the eighth when, with Cruz on second, Seager hit a grounder, ruled a single, that struck the second base umpire. Instead of Cruz scoring, he was ordered back to second on umpire’s interference.
Hisashi Iwakuma, who took a no-decision, delivered a strong outing, working six innings while allowing one earned run on four hits with five strikeouts and two walks. Iwakuma, who retired 12 in a row at one point, threw 84 pitches, 56 for strikes, and went to a three-ball count on one hitter before walking Jake Marisnick in the sixth . . . Evan Scribner and Steve Cishek threw scoreless innings in relief of Iwakuma, neither allowing a hit . . . Diaz blew his third save of the year by giving up two runs on four hits. He threw 30 pitches.
“It was a huge game by Robinson Cano. He’s got his timing and rhythm back. We also got an outstanding outing from Iwakuma. For Diaz, it was not his night. But he kept us in the game and gave us a chance and we got the big home run late. We should have scored a few more runs tonight. We didn’t do well with runners in scoring position and struck out a lot. We’ve got to tighten that up and we have to keep taking care of business.” — Mariners manager Scott Servais
The Mariners, who have won 13 of their past 18, are 35-35 vs. the AL West, 7-10 vs. the Astros and 29-28 in one-run games . . . The Mariners Monday named Scott Hunter as their director of amateur scouting. Hunter, 40, completed his 22nd season in professional baseball, including the past three with the Mariners as their international cross-checker.
The middle game of the three-game series is Tuesday at 5:10 p.m., PT. RHP Felix Hernandez (11-6, 3.61) will oppose RHP Mike Fiers (11-8, 4.40). After the Houston series ends Wednesday, the Mariners will return to Safeco Field Thursday night for a season-ending, four-game series with the Oakland Athletics.