By Brian McTaggart and Andrew Erickson
SEATTLE -- Red-hot slugger Chris Carter homered in his third consecutive game, breaking a tie with a solo shot in the seventh inning Monday night at Safeco Field to send the Astros to a 3-2 win over the Mariners and to within 1 1/2 games of the American League West lead.
"Springer set the tone early, and in the first inning, me hitting the homer, too, was great, but that [Carter homer] was the momentum we needed, that little kick to get us ahead," Gattis said. "To me, that was the moment of the game. That changed the tide."
The Astros closed in on the first-place Rangers in the AL West, while staying 1 1/2 games ahead of the Twins for the second AL Wild Card berth. They are a half-game ahead of the Angels in both races.
"We have a really good team, and we've been playing pretty good baseball all year," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I can't really control what everybody else is doing. We could the last couple of days, when we were facing the Rangers, but to use the quote for like the hundredth time, we're going to play the whole schedule and we'll see where it ends."
Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. worked six-plus innings for Houston, allowing two runs, four hits and two walks while striking out seven batters. He won for the first time since July 29 after the Astros had lost his previous five starts.
"It's big," McCullers said. "I mean, we're chasing a team for the division title, and we're being chased by guys for the Wild Card. So it was big to get this first win. And hopefully build on this momentum. Good team win tonight and move into tomorrow."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Carter stays hot: Relegated to the bench during the second half of the season, Carter has gotten hot at a great time time for the Astros. He has been getting starts at first base against a run of left-handed starting pitchers and has responded by homering in five consecutive starts. Carter has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games and has hit nine homers in his career at Safeco Field.
"He's been extremely clutch down the stretch here with some really big homers, against right-handed pitching especially, at the most opportune time, when we needed it," Hinch said. "It was a big boost for us." More >
LoMo locks down a liner: Elias was in trouble to start the sixth, hitting Springer and throwing three straight balls to Carlos Correa before eventually working the count full. Correa scorched the seventh pitch of the at-bat to the right side for what looked like extra bases. But it was within reach of first baseman Logan Morrison, who caught the liner and fell to his knees to double off Springer at first. Elias then got Gattis to ground out to finish the sixth inning of a start for the first time since Aug. 27.
"Our young starter pitched a whale of a ballgame," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. "When he's relaxed and he's got good tempo, he's pretty good out there. I thought he settled down quite nicely and gave us a solid six innings."
Marte's mash: In the first 49 games of his Major League career, 21-year-old Ketel Marte logged 54 hits without a home run. Things have changed in a hurry for the young shortstop, who has homered twice in his last three games, including a solo shot off McCullers to lead off the sixth. The solo blast to right, which traveled a projected 381 feet at a 31-degree launch angle, according to Statcast™, tied the ballgame at 2 and accounted for Seattle's only run off McCullers after the first inning. More >
Bullpen delivers in clutch: The Astros' bullpen, which been the source of scorn and frustration this month, was terrific. Tony Sipp, Oliver Perez and Luke Gregerson combined to send down all eight batters they faced. That's only the third in 14 games since Sept. 14 that Houston relievers haven't been scored upon. More >
"It was a good idea. I think execution wasn't completely there. You know, ideally, you want that pitch to be down and away, and it was down and in. He put a good swing on it, and he hit it far." -- Farquhar, on throwing a first-pitch curveball to Carter.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers (7-10, 3.66 ERA) will get the start for the Astros in Tuesday's 9:10 p.m. CT game against the Mariners at Safeco Field. He's 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA in nine games (eight starts) with the Astros, including a no-hitter.
Mariners:Vidal Nuno (1-4, 4.10 ERA) makes his ninth start of the season and his second start against the Astros on Tuesday in the second game of a three-game set at 7:10 p.m. PT. The left-hander took the loss Aug. 31 against Houston, allowing five runs over six innings. He is 0-2 with a 10.57 ERA in two starts since notching his first win of the season Sept. 9 against Texas.