SEATTLE — Mauricio Dubón hit a tiebreaking, three-run homer in the fourth inning, and the Houston Astros boosted their lead over the Seattle Mariners for the last AL wild card with a contentious 8-3 win on Wednesday night.
Benches cleared in the sixth with Houston ahead 4-3 after Hector Neris struck out Julio Rodríguez for the inning's final out. Neris pounded his chest, shouted and walked toward Rodríguez as the Seattle star was returning to the dugout. Umpires restored order after a few tense minutes of shouting.
After the game, Neris played down any negative feelings that might exist between him and Rodríguez.
“He's my friend,” Neris said. “Just, it's part of the game.”
Rodríguez said he was shocked by the way that Neris acted toward him, team spokesman Adam Gresch said.
Mariners third baseman Eugenio Suárez was angry about the incident, too, saying that Valdez said some “bad words” in Spanish to Rodríguez.
“That made me so mad, and that's why I said what I said to them and to him," Suárez said. "You've got to respect people. I play this game in the right way, and I respect everybody. I don't want to take that, for me, and I let them know that you've got to respect our team, too.”
Manager Dusty Baker worried about the impact on the game.
“I was just hoping it didn't wake them up,” Baker said. “This is September. Tempers are short.”
Rodríguez went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts and was 0 for 9 in the series. Mariners batters struck out 16 times and Seattle, held scoreless over the last five innings, went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
“We did a lot of good things to create opportunities offensively, but ultimately you've got to cash in, “ manager Scott Servais said. ”We were unable to do that tonight.”
Defending champion Houston moved 1 1/2 games in front of Seattle for the third and final wild card and headed to a three-game series at Arizona in control of its fate. The Mariners, who hold the tiebreaker, host AL West leader Texas in a four-game series. The Rangers lead Seattle by 2 1/2 games.
“We had to have that game,” Baker said. “That was another example of how important getaway days are. I don't know what our record is, but pretty good. These guys are conscious of it.”
Houston's Michael Brantley tied his career high with four hits, returning to the lineup after missing eight games with right shoulder soreness.
Kendall Graveman (5-6) pitched a scoreless fifth in relief of Framber Valdez,
J.P. Crawford homered on Valdez's second pitch but Yordan Alvarez hit a tying homer in the fourth against Bryce Miller (8-7), who gave up four runs and six hits in four innings. Dubon's homer put the Astros ahead 4-1, but Eugenio Suárez cut the deficit with a two-run single in the bottom half.
Houston opened a 7-3 lead in the seventh. Alex Bregman reached third when his single got past right fielder Teoscar Hernandez for an error. Kyle Tucker hit an RBI double, and José Abreu and Michael Brantley followed with RBI singles against Matt Brash. Martín Maldonado hit a solo homer in the eighth off Trent Thorton.
Jose Altuve hit his 400th double, joining Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell as the only Astros to accomplish the feat.
Astros: OF Chas McCormick was out after taking a 99 mph fastball from Andrés Muñoz off his back Tuesday.
Astros: RHP J.P. France (11-6, 3.83 ERA) will take the mound Friday.
Mariners: RHP Logan Gilbert (13-7, 3.75 ERA) starts Thursday against Texas and LHP Jordan Montgomery (10-11, 3.25).