SEATTLE — Looking to take some pressure off himself while trying to reach the 200-hit mark, Jose Altuve just focused on helping his team win. He accomplished both.
Altuve, hitless in seven at-bats in the first two games of the series, had two hits to reach the milestone and drove in a run as the Houston Astros beat Seattle 5-2 Wednesday night, damaging the Mariners' postseason chances.
"I got to admit I was trying to get 200 hits," Altuve he said. "So I came in today and said to myself, just win the game and not think 200 hits. And we did."
And he did, too.
Altuve had a RBI double in the fifth and a single in the seventh for his league-leading 200th hit. He is the second Astros player to accomplish the feat, joining Craig Biggio — who set the franchise record of 210 in 1998.
"I feel real happy," Altuve said. "We won this game, I got 200 hits and the team is playing great. Couldn't ask for more."
He reached the mark in his 146th game — the fastest since Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki reached 200 in 144th games in 2009.
Altuve leads the league in hitting (.336 average), hits and steals (52). If he finishes as the leader in all three categories he would be the first to do that since Suzuki in 2001.
"You don't see 200 hits from that many guys in a season. Well-deserved for that young man," Astros interim manager Tom Lawless said. "I told him after the game, 'it's hard to do what you did this year. ... Keep on going but that club is a small club to belong to.' I don't think he knows how hard it is to do it."
The Mariners remained a half-game behind Detroit for the second wild-card spot.
Oakland, which opens a three-game series at Safeco Field on Friday, holds a two-game advantage over the Mariners for the first wild-card spot.
"This is the first game we've had like that all year, a tough disappointing loss," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said.
The Astros chased Hisashi Iwakuma (14-7) after just 4 1-3 innings, his third shortest outing of the season.
Iwakuma struggled with his control from the start and walked Jon Singleton with one out in the second inning. It was just his 15th walk issued in 161 2-3 innings this season.
Matt Dominguez then popped out before three straight hits, by Alex Presley, Max Stassi and Jonathan Villar, produced three runs.
In Iwakuma's 24 previous starts, opponents had scored a combined three runs in the second inning.
Nick Tropeano (1-0), making his major league debut, allowed two runs and four hits in five innings. He struck out five and left with a 4-2 lead.
Tony Sipp finished the ninth for his fourth save.
Tropeano's only trouble came in the second when Mike Zunino hit a one-out, two-run double.
The Astros added a run in the eighth on Presley's two-out RBI single. He and Stassi each had two RBIs.
Houston has won 14 of its last 22 games, going 6-2 since Lawless took over for Bo Porter on Sept. 2.
After their final off day of the season, the Mariners open their critical series against Oakland. Seattle left-hander James Paxton (5-2, 1.87) will start Friday against right-hander Jason Hammel (2-5, 4.70). The Astros, also off Thursday, will send Brett Oberholtzer (5-10, 4.38) against C.J. Wilson (11-9, 4.64) in the opener of their series with the Angels.
SELIG AND NO. 42
Commissioner Bud Selig met with the media before the game. Among his topics was the genesis for all the players wearing No. 42 on April 15 each season to honor Jackie Robinson.
"Commissioners are never supposed to have favorites," Selig began. "Let me tell you a story. I came back from a trip to Arizona and my phone was ringing. It was Ken Griffey Jr. And he apologized for calling me so late and he said, 'I know how you feel about Jackie Robinson. What would be wrong with all of us wearing No. 42?' "
Selig said he would think about it but didn't take long. The next morning he called Robinson's widow, Rachel, and told her Griffey's idea and she embraced it. So every year since 2004 every player wears No. 42 on April 15. The number also was retired throughout baseball in 1997.
CLOSER TO THE END
Even though Mariners closer Fernando Rodney has 44 saves in 47 opportunities and needs just two more to set the franchise record, he tends to be a final-inning roller coaster. Manager Lloyd McClendon says just enjoy the ride.
"I'm a believer that once you get to your closer in the ninth inning, you've done your job as a manager," McClendon said.