Thanks to Abraham Toro’s bat and their pitching staff, the Seattle Mariners are still in the American League postseason hunt.
The Mariners shut out Houston, which has baseball’s best overall offense, two straight days and Toro drove in all five runs in 4-0 and 1-0 victories.
Seattle (72-62) will try to keep that momentum going when it opens a three-game series Friday in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have the National League’s worst record at 45-90.
Toro hit a grand slam in the eighth inning Tuesday and a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the sixth inning Wednesday to account for all the runs against his former team. He was acquired by Seattle along with reliever Joe Smith on July 27 for right-handers Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero.
But it was mainly about the pitching for the Mariners, who got stellar starts from left-hander Yusei Kikuchi and rookie right-hander Logan Gilbert and a strong effort from their bullpen. Right-hander Paul Sewald, who went 1-14 over the previous four seasons with the Mets, improved to 9-3 with a victory Tuesday and got the final four outs for his eighth save of the season Wednesday.
The back-to-back shutouts were even more impressive considering the Astros lead Major League Baseball in batting average (.267) and on-base percentage (.339) and are second in runs per game (5.30).
And also due to how the Astros blasted the Mariners by 12-3 and 15-1 scores in back-to-back games a week and a half earlier in Houston.
“It’s really hard to throw back-to-back shutouts in this league and especially against the type of lineup that we faced here,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We’re playing good baseball. We’ll head out on the road; we got to pick up the offense a little bit. We know that.”
The Mariners entered their off day Thursday 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox for the AL’s second and final wild-card berth.
The Diamondbacks snapped a five-game losing streak with an 8-3 victory against San Diego on Wednesday as right-hander Luke Weaver, making his first start since May 16 after a stint on the 60-day injured list with a strained right shoulder, pitched six solid innings.
While Seattle hasn’t yet named a starter for the series opener Friday, the Diamondbacks are scheduled to go with left-hander Madison Bumgarner (7-9, 4.37 ERA).
Bumgarner had a sub-2.00 ERA in his first seven starts after returning from the injured list on July 16, but has struggled with his command over his past two, giving up nine earned runs and walking seven over 11 innings.
He suffered a 7-4 loss Sunday in Philadelphia when he matched a season-high with four walks. He gave up five runs on seven hits in five innings.
“It should have been a lot worse. That’s as bad as I think I’ve ever been,” Bumgarner said. “I had no feel, no idea where the ball was going. It was really bad. That’s as bad a game as I’ve thrown in a long time, and I’m surprised it wasn’t a lot worse.”
Bumgarner is 0-1 with a 1.69 ERA in two career starts against Seattle. He has allowed just seven hits in 16 innings.
–Field Level Media