SEATTLE (AP) — Marco Gonzales pumped his fist and let out a scream after striking out Michael Brantley on a full-count pitch to finish off eight shutout innings.
The emotion poured out. Seattle’s ace was determined to finally get the best of the Astros, and in the process he helped provide the final blow in ending Houston’s run atop the AL West.
“To be honest, I just went out and attacked them, put them on their heels. And when you do that to anybody I think it takes the wind out of their sails,” Gonzales said. “I just came in to win today. That’s it.”
Gonzales was dominant on the mound, Evan White broke open a tight game with a three-run homer in the seventh and the Mariners beat the Astros 6-1 Monday night.
Seattle’s victory clinched the AL West title for Oakland, ending Houston’s three-year reign and making the A’s the first team in the majors to lock up a division crown in this pandemic-shortened season.
The win also improved Seattle’s slim hopes of catching the Astros for second place and a guaranteed playoff spot. The Mariners are three games behind Houston with six remaining.
“What’s most important is the game at hand tonight and then the game tomorrow and the next day,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
It was just the third victory for Seattle in its past 27 meetings with Houston over the last two seasons.
Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. didn’t allow a hit until Tim Lopes’ one-out double in the sixth — but things quickly unraveled for him in the seventh. Ty France had an RBI double and McCullers’ night ended when White turned on a hanging 2-2 curveball and lined it over the left-field wall for his seventh home run and a 4-0 lead.
It was McCullers' third start against Seattle this year, and White guessed the home run was his first time putting the ball in play.
“I think I walked, got hit by a pitch and struck out a whole lot of times. So to be able to do that, especially with a two-strike count, is pretty exciting,” White said.
Seattle added two more off reliever Brandon Bielak in the eighth on Kyle Seager’s two-run single, a long fly that Brantley couldn’t track down in the left-field corner.
Gonzales (7-2) didn’t have no-hit stuff, but matched McCullers in putting up zeros by pitching out of trouble. Gonzales stranded runners at second in the second, fourth and sixth, coming up with important pitches to induce weak contact at key moments.
With two on and one out in the sixth, Gonzales got a flyout from Yuli Gurriel and a groundout from Kyle Tucker to escape the jam. Jose Altuve doubled with one out in the eighth but Gonzales got a popout from Alex Bregman and struck out Brantley to end the inning.
Gonzales allowed seven hits and struck out six. He’s won five straight decisions, and beat the Astros for the first time in eight career starts.
“Players know who they’ve been successful against, maybe who they’ve had some struggles against,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “Marco, he likes the challenge. He likes when people think they got his number. And he is a fighter. We saw that tonight.”
Seattle’s rally against McCullers (3-3) started with Kyle Lewis walking on four pitches and Seager reaching on an error by Altuve at second base. France jumped on the first pitch and pulled it just fair inside third and past Bregman’s diving attempt, driving in Lewis and putting runners at second and third.
McCullers struck out Jose Marmolejos and Luis Torrens, but couldn’t get White.
McCullers allowed three hits and struck out seven, but none of the four runs were earned. The Astros have not scored in either of his past two starts when McCullers has been on the mound.
"It’s just a rough patch,” he said. “The guys have been here for me many times when I haven’t been throwing the ball well or whatever the case is. I wouldn’t take anybody else over these guys we got.”
Seattle returned home for the first time in nearly a week after five games against San Francisco and San Diego were relocated due to poor air quality in the Puget Sound region from wildfires on the West Coast. The Mariners went 1-4 in the relocated games.
Astros: CF George Springer was out of the lineup as a precaution after Baker said Springer needed a break. Baker said data being analyzed by the team suggested Springer was at risk for a potential injury if he didn’t get a rest. ... Third base coach Gary Pettis, who has been out for several games with hip discomfort, did not travel with the team to Seattle and Baker said he isn’t sure if Pettis will return this season. Pettis was undergoing tests on Monday. First base coach Omar Lopez has been coaching third base, and quality control coach Chris Speier is filling in at first.
Astros: LHP Framber Valdez (4-3, 3.82 ERA) makes his 10th start. Valdez allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings in his last start against Texas to get the victory.
Mariners: RHP Ljay Newsome (0-1, 6.35 ERA) makes his fourth start. Newsome was knocked around for five earned runs over three innings in his last start against the Giants.
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