HOUSTON — The Houston Astros are on the verge of closing out the AL West.
Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis had two hits apiece to help Houston beat James Paxton and the Seattle Mariners 5-2 on Friday night, dropping its magic number to two. The Astros could secure their first division title since 2001 with a win and an Angels loss Saturday.
"We're excited. We can't wait for that," Correa said. "We're chasing that first and then we want obviously to have the best record in the American League. So hopefully we can clinch soon and then go after the other one."
The Astros led 3-0 after one inning, jumping all over Paxton (12-4) in his return from the disabled list after sitting out since Aug. 10 with a strained pectoral muscle.
Paxton got four outs and was charged with three runs and four hits, snapping a seven-game winning streak. It tied the shortest start of his career and was his first loss since June 27.
"I was out of whack on the mound," Paxton said. "I was just watching some video, and my front side was going early, so I had nothing to throw against. I felt like I went to throw the ball, and there was nothing there."
Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (12-7) struck out seven while pitching six innings of one-run ball. Ken Giles got three outs for his 31st save.
Jean Segura had two hits and two RBIs for the Mariners, who remain in the hunt for the second AL wild card.
Paxton had trouble locating his pitches from the start, walking leadoff hitter George Springer and throwing two wild pitches in the first inning. The first one allowed Springer to advance to second and he scored on a one-out single by Jose Altuve. Paxton's second wild pitch put Altuve at second and the Astros made it 2-0 when he scored on a double by Correa that sailed just out of reach of a leaping Guillermo Heredia in centre field.
Gattis snapped an 0-for-15 skid with an RBI single before Paxton walked Josh Reddick. He finally escaped the inning by retiring Tyler White.
Gattis doubled with two outs in the third and scored on a single by Reddick to push the lead to 4-0.
"That was a good day for him," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said of Gattis. "He caught well, a couple key hits, a walk. Just did a really nice job of contributing."
Segura hit a leadoff double before Morton retired the next 10 batters. Robinson Cano singled with one out in the fourth and Nelson Cruz walked, but Morton sat down the next two Mariners to end the threat.
Astros: OF Jake Marisnick had surgery to repair a broken right thumb after he got hurt on a headfirst slide into second base on Wednesday night. He is expected to be out six to eight weeks. ... RHP Lance McCullers, who was scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday after experiencing arm fatigue during pregame throwing, will throw a bullpen on Saturday. If that goes well he could start on Tuesday against the White Sox.
Houston outfielder Cameron Maybin got a steal in the sixth inning to give him 31 this season, tying him with Altuve for the AL lead in stolen bases.
THEY SAID IT
Mariners manager Scott Servais on his team's offence on Friday night: "We just didn't get much going. We didn't get that big hit with guys on."
Mariners: Erasmo Ramirez (5-5, 4.25 ERA) is scheduled to start for Seattle on Saturday. He yielded five hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings of a 5-3 loss to the Angels his last time out.
Astros: Dallas Keuchel (12-4, 3.03 ERA) pitches for Houston. The left-hander will look to get back on track after allowing four runs in 5 2/3 innings of a 10-2 loss to Oakland in his last start.
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