Hot start, HRs help Mariners pick up WC ground

Hot start, HRs help Mariners pick up WC ground

HOUSTON -- Leave it to Mariners slugger Robinson Cano to deliver a staggering blow to the Astros' postseason hopes.

Cano launched a three-run homer in the first inning -- his ninth against Houston in 19 games this year -- off struggling starter Doug Fister, and Seth Smith capped a three-run second inning with a two-run single to send Seattle to a 12-4 rout on Wednesday afternoon in the final regular-season game of the year at Minute Maid Park.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners to let Cruz play through wrist injury

Servais staying with Marte at short despite slump, error

Mariners to let Cruz play through wrist injury

HOUSTON -- Nelson Cruz continues to deal with a painful left wrist that causes him to visibly cringe at times when he swings and misses at pitches, but the Mariners slugger will play as long as he can with his team still clinging to hopes of landing the final American League Wild Card berth.

"He really is grinding through it," manager Scott Servais said prior to Wednesday's series finale with the Astros. "You feel bad for him. You play the whole year and hope you're at your best right at the end, and he's having to deal with something uncomfortable. With something in your hand when you're swinging the bat, it is tough.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners' errors prove costly in loss to Astros

Mariners' errors prove costly in loss to Astros

HOUSTON -- The Astros aren't ready to turn the page on 2016 just yet.

George Springer's two-run double with the bases loaded and Marwin Gonzalez's two-run single highlighted a six-run outburst in the sixth inning against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez that continued the Astros' postseason drive in an 8-4 win Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cano credits health for offensive turnaround

Cano credits health for offensive turnaround

HOUSTON -- For Robinson Cano, the home runs have been coming since the start of the season and they haven't slowed. The seven-time All-Star second baseman is at a career-best 35 and counting after two more homers in Monday's 4-3 win over the Astros.

And Cano continued his one-man assault on Houston in Tuesday's 8-4 loss, as he doubled twice in four at-bats and scored Seattle's first run. Cano is 19-for-37 (.514) with six homers and 11 RBIs in nine games at Minute Maid Park this season and 26-for-72 (.361) with eight homers and 22 RBIs in 18 games overall against Houston going into Wednesday's final meeting of 2016, which now looms large with both teams clinging to Wild Card hopes.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Tiebreaker scenarios for Wild Card berths

As the 2016 season winds down the six divisions are pretty much decided. However, the two Wild Card races are completely up in the air, and there is a good chance we end up seeing at least one tiebreaker game played on Monday, Oct. 3.

With that in mind, here is a breakdown of the likeliest tiebreaker scenarios for the American and National League Wild Cards.

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Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Felix's rough stretch vs. Houston continues

Mariners ace winless with 14.80 ERA in last 3 starts vs. Astros

Felix's rough stretch vs. Houston continues

HOUSTON -- The Astros appear to have Felix Hernandez's number after beating Seattle's ace for the third straight time over the past two seasons on Tuesday, this one an 8-4 decision that made the Mariners' postseason bid even tougher.

But Hernandez -- who was hit hard his previous two meetings with Houston -- didn't get any help as two errors in a fateful six-run sixth inning led to four unearned runs that wound up being the difference.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bullpen picks up shaky Diaz, delivers in extras

Storen, Vincent lock down win after Astros' rally

Bullpen picks up shaky Diaz, delivers in extras

HOUSTON -- A Mariners bullpen that hadn't allowed a hit over 11 2/3 innings finally cracked in the bottom of the ninth inning on Monday as young closer Edwin Diaz gave up four hits and two runs -- and a two-run lead -- in a critical game against the Astros.

But such is the resilient nature of this club that Diaz wiggled out of that precarious position by retiring the final two batters with the winning run perched on third, then Seattle won it, 4-3, in the 11th on a second home run by Robinson Cano. With the win, Seattle moved to two game back in the American League Wild Card race.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Sucre's surge an inspiration for Seattle's run

Sucre's surge an inspiration for Seattle's run

HOUSTON -- If you're a Mariners fan looking to believe, searching for reminders that anything can happen in the game of baseball, look no further than the improbable tale of third-string catcher Jesus Sucre.

As the Mariners make a long-shot push for the playoffs in the final week, Sucre sits as Exhibit A in the "how to beat the odds" category. For starters, Sucre wasn't even expected back this season after fracturing his leg playing winter ball in Venezuela.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cano powers Seattle to 2 back in Wild Card

Cano powers Seattle to 2 back in Wild Card

HOUSTON -- Robinson Cano continued his assault on Astros pitching, edging the Mariners closer in the American League Wild Card chase in the process while pushing Houston closer to elimination.

Cano clubbed two home runs, including a long solo shot down the right-field line off Luke Gregerson in the 11th inning, to send the Mariners to a key, 4-3 win over the Astros in the series opener Monday night at Minute Maid Park.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners promote Hunter to director of scouting

HOUSTON -- Scott Hunter, a Mariners scout for the past three seasons, was promoted to director of amateur scouting on Monday by general manager Jerry Dipoto.

The 40-year-old Hunter replaced Tom McNamara in that role after McNamara was recently promoted to a special assistant to the GM post.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Walker gets win with heavy heart for Fernandez

Walker gets win with heavy heart for Fernandez

MINNEAPOLIS -- Like the rest of Major League Baseball, Taijuan Walker competed with a heavy heart on Sunday, battling through a 4-3 win over the Twins just hours after learning that Marlins ace Jose Fernandez had died in a boating accident in Miami.

"It was just one of those games," Walker said. "There were a lot of emotions just from everything that happened this morning. I had kind of a hard time getting going. Everything just felt a little off."

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cishek, Mariners reflect on life of Fernandez

Cishek, Mariners reflect on life of Fernandez

MINNEAPOLIS -- Like the entire baseball world, the Mariners clubhouse was quieted Sunday morning by the shocking news of the death of Marlins pitching standout Jose Fernandez. And no one was hit harder then former Marlins closer Steve Cishek, who was a teammate and friend for the past five years.

"It was completely shocking," Cishek said, standing in front of his locker a few hours before the Mariners took on the Twins on Sunday in their series finale at Target Field. "To have that be the first thing I wake up to this morning, all of us for that matter, it's just tragic.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Statcast of the Day: Cruz's mammoth blast

Mariners slugger's 493-foot homer is MLB's second longest of season

Statcast of the Day: Cruz's mammoth blast

MINNEAPOLIS -- Nelson Cruz seems to be warming up for the stretch run, judging by his latest home run -- the second-longest blast in the Major Leagues this season, according to Statcast™ projections.

Cruz launched a two-run shot a projected 493 feet into the upper deck at Target Field in the fourth inning of the Mariners' 3-2 loss to the Twins. The blast, off Twins right-hander Tyler Duffey, tied the game at 2. The only longer home run measured by Statcast™ this season was a 504-footer by Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton off the Rockies' Chad Bettis on Aug. 6 at Coors Field.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners keep pace in WC race, beat Twins

Mariners keep pace in WC race, beat Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Time may be running out on the Mariners playoff chances, but they kept hope alive with a 4-3 victory over the Twins on Sunday behind a trio of home runs by Nelson Cruz and Jesus Sucre at Target Field.

Cruz ripped a pair of homers -- giving him four in past three games and 41 on the year -- while Sucre's go-ahead two-run shot in the fifth was his first of the season as Seattle secured its first series win over the Twins since 2012

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners come up short against Twins

Mariners come up short against Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Other than a prodigious blast by Nelson Cruz, right-hander Tyler Duffey shut down the Mariners for seven innings Saturday as the Twins snapped a seven-game losing streak and dented Seattle's Wild Card pursuits with a 3-2 victory at Target Field.

Duffey held the Mariners to four hits and two runs, both coming on a Cruz blast projected at 493 feet by Statcast™, the second-longest in the Majors this year. Duffey (9-11, 6.18 ERA) had been 0-3 with an 11.15 ERA his previous four starts, but he shut down the Mariners and helped stave off the Twins' 100th loss of the season as they improved to 56-99.

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Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Marte working hard to regain timing at plate

Mariners shortstop has not been as effective since midseason illness

Marte working hard to regain timing at plate

MINNEAPOLIS -- At first, Ketel Marte was just looking for the 22 pounds he lost while dealing with an untimely bout with mononucleosis. But now, the Mariners' young shortstop is searching for the hitting stroke he seemed to misplace as well during his two-week stint on the disabled list last month.

The 22-year-old Dominican put up a .273/.299/.358 line in 74 games before his illness, not quite the .351 on-base percentage he flashed as a rookie last year, but still adequate production from the shortstop position.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Paxton sharp as Mariners erupt to keep pace

Paxton sharp as Mariners erupt to keep pace

MINNEAPOLIS -- Mariners lefty James Paxton took matters into his own hands on Friday with a powerful seven-inning outing, and he got plenty of help from his offense as Seattle topped the Twins, 10-1, to stay in pursuit of an American League Wild Card.

"This is what we need," Paxton said. "We need to win right now. Guys are playing hard, and we're just doing our best to stay right there and climb up in the Wild Card standings."

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Heart of lineup pounds away in blowout win

Cano, Cruz, Seager muscle up as Mariners surge past Twins

Heart of lineup pounds away in blowout win

MINNEAPOLIS -- If the Mariners are going to do damage down the stretch, they're going to need their stars to lead the way. And the big boys -- Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager -- certainly muscled up in a 10-1 win over the Twins on Friday as Seattle kicked off a critical season-ending road trip in fine fashion.

Cruz launched a tape-measure home run -- 454 feet, according to Statcast™'s projection -- and added a two-run double in a four-RBI night that would have been even bigger if not for Byron Buxton robbing him of a shot at the top of the wall in center on another monster mash.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Smith hitting September stride for Seattle

Outfielder batting .316 with 5 homers over 13-game stretch

Smith hitting September stride for Seattle

MINNEAPOLIS -- While much of the Mariners' offensive focus understandably circles around the heart-of-the-order trio of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, veteran right fielder Seth Smith has quietly been playing a key role in the stretch run.

Consistency is a hallmark of Smith's and he certainly has lived up to that this season. His .261/.349/.437 batting line is almost a mirror image of his 10-year career numbers of .262/.345/.450.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners suspend Clevenger for tweets

MINNEAPOLIS - As the Mariners arrived in the clubhouse prior to Friday's series-opening game against the Twins, some players gathered to watch a report on suspended teammate Steve Clevenger airing on the MLB Network on several overhead TVs.

But manager Scott Servais says he doesn't expect Clevenger's suspension, which came after the 30-year-old catcher wrote a pair of racially charged tweets on Thursday, would impact the club as it hits the homestretch of its playoff push.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners hire director of baseball operations

Hollander reunites with Dipoto after 9 seasons with Angels

MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Hollander, the current director of player personnel with the Angels, has been hired as the Mariners' director of baseball operations, the club announced Friday.

Hollander, 37, has spent the past nine seasons in the Angels' front office and worked the previous four years with Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners realize urgency of remaining series

With narrow path to playoffs, Seattle ready to fight to the finish

Mariners realize urgency of remaining series

MINNEAPOLIS -- Ten games. One road trip. One homestand. And a chance.

That's what remains for the Mariners as they embark on their final trek of the season, with a three-game series against the Twins starting Friday, then three games at Houston and four final Safeco Field appearances against the A's.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Soccer star Jordan Morris uses hands for first pitch

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Soccer star Jordan Morris uses hands for first pitch

Jordan Morris plays soccer for the Seattle Sounders and the U.S. Men's National Team. With the USMNT in 2015, he scored the first goal by a college player in a quarter of a century, and he's been called "the next great United States soccer star" -- and, oh yeah, he's only 21 years old. So yes, he's quite good at soccer.

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Cano delivers in 12th for Wild walk-off vs. Jays

Cano delivers in 12th for Wild walk-off vs. Jays

SEATTLE -- Needing an ace performance to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Mariners got seven scoreless innings from Felix Hernandez on Wednesday and Robinson Cano drove in Guillermo Heredia with a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 12th as Seattle avoided being swept at Safeco Field with a dramatic 2-1 win over the Blue Jays.

A two-base throwing error on third baseman Josh Donaldson put Heredia on to open the 12th, and Heredia advanced when Donaldson dropped the ball as the Blue Jays tried to make a play at third on a sacrifice by Ben Gamel. That set up Cano for the game-winner off of R.A. Dickey, who entered in the 12th as Toronto's 10th pitcher of the day.

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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Freeman's grab highlight for unexpected heroes

Vincent, Heredia also deliver in key victory for Mariners

Freeman's grab highlight for unexpected heroes

SEATTLE -- In a crucial game where the Mariners' big three of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager were a combined 0-for-12 until Cano's game-winning sacrifice fly in the 12th inning, a number of lesser-known heroes stepped up to facilitate Wednesday's 2-1 win over the Blue Jays at Safeco Field.

There was Mike Freeman, a utility infielder who had one at-bat in four games as a September callup, making an outstanding diving catch to rob Kevin Pillar of the go-ahead RBI in the top of the 10th inning.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

King Felix silences invaders to his court

King Felix silences invaders to his court

SEATTLE -- The King's Court was the smallest Felix Hernandez had ever seen it. A sea of Toronto blue pushed it into just one small yellow triangle crammed behind the left-field foul pole. The King didn't like that.

"That was unbelievable," Hernandez said. "But you know what, it's still my house."

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Maddie Lee is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners hope Cano gets rolling down stretch

Servais encouraged by 2nd baseman's past few games

Mariners hope Cano gets rolling down stretch

SEATTLE -- One thing that would clearly help the Mariners as they head down the stretch is getting Robinson Cano rolling again. Manager Scott Servais acknowledged that the second baseman's 2-for-4 game with a two-run triple in Tuesday's 10-2 loss to the Blue Jays at Safeco Field was one of the few positives out of that setback.

Cano has been outstanding this season, but he's hit a lull at a bad time, batting .185 with just two extra-base hits and three RBIs over the past 14 games entering Wednesday. The seven-time All-Star had a 1-for-21 stretch over five games prior to the Blue Jays series, so Servais was encouraged by a single and walk in Monday's loss, which also included a well-struck line drive with the bases loaded that was hauled down at the warning track.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners' small mistake paves way for Jays' big rally

Mariners' small mistake paves way for Jays' big rally

SEATTLE -- It all started innocently enough, with a misplayed popup by Mariners catcher Chris Iannetta, who overran a towering foul ball and was charged with an error when it dropped behind his outstretched glove as he tried to reach back at the last second.

But instead of two outs and nobody on the fourth with a two-run lead, Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma wound up giving up a single to right by Jose Bautista. And then the wheels came off as nine straight Blue Jays proceeded to reach base in an eight-run, eight-hit rally that knocked Iwakuma out of the game and wobbled the Mariners' postseason hopes with what turned into a 10-2 loss at Safeco Field.

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Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners lose grip on Jays during 8-run fourth

Mariners lose grip on Jays during 8-run fourth

SEATTLE -- J.A. Happ became Toronto's first 20-game winner since 2008 on Tuesday night and delivered a blow to his former Mariners teammates' playoff chances in the process, while the Blue Jays smacked four home runs in a 10-2 runaway at Safeco Field.

Happ allowed two runs over five innings while striking out eight as he hiked his record to 20-4 with a 3.28 ERA, moving the Blue Jays into sole possession of the American League's top Wild Card spot, four games back of AL East-leading Boston at 83-68.

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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.