HOUSTON — Robinson Cano continued his assault on Houston pitching Saturday night with four more hits, including a tie-breaking home run in the 10th inning that lifted the Mariners to a 3-2 victory at Minute Maid Park.
That makes four homers and 16 RBIs for Cano while batting .538 (14-for-26) in six games against the Astros.
"You know me," he said through a wide smile. "It’s all about winning games and being able take advantage of a situation like that. Being able to hit a homer, it makes it more special."
This was special.
Cano’s second homer of the game and came after the Astros forced extra innings on Luis Valbuena’s leadoff homer in the ninth inning against Steve Cishek.
"I schlepped a fastball, too much middle," Cishek said. "I knew I was going back out there no matter what. I knew we were thin (in the bullpen). So just to have that opportunity to get the team a win was all I wanted.
"Just another shot."
Manager Scott Servais said he called Cano’s second shot: "It’s crazy. We’re sitting on the bench and I said to (bench coach Tim Bogar), `Man, he needs to hit one into the Crawford Boxes.’ I’ll be danged if he didn’t do it."
A young Houston fan also predicted it while Cano was in the on-deck circle.
"He had on an Astros shirt," Cano said. "And he was like, `I know you’re going to hit homer, so can I have your bat?’ I hit the homer. So I signed one. Not the same one, but I gave him a bat."
The Astros admit they have no answers.
"The rest of the league is not having a tremendous amount of success against him," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "but he certainly has our number.
"We’ve thrown him hard, we’ve thrown him soft and he’s found ways to do damage. A lot of his RBIs are against us. We haven’t solved the challenge."
Cano’s game-winner was a 359-foot drive to left field against Astros lefty Tony Sipp (0-2) on a 1-2 fastball.
"He’s really tough," Cano said. "I was just looking for something up because I know he has a nasty split and a slider, too. I wasn’t looking for anything other than something over the plate."
But when he connected, Cano knew it was gone. So did the rest of the dugout.
"Just pure excitement," said third baseman Kyle Seager who, like Cano, had a homer earlier in the game against Houston starter Dallas Keuchel.
"It really doesn’t matter who’s throwing right now to him, you feel really good about where he’s at. That’s the guy you want up in that situation — really in any situation. So just a huge shot of life right there for us."
Given a second chance, Cishek (2-1) breezed through the Astros in the 10th inning. The Mariners won for the 16th time in 22 games, won their sixth straight one-run decision and improved to 18-12.
Actually, it shouldn’t have been this tough.
The Mariners squandered too many prime scoring opportunities in the late innings and left their bullpen with no margin for error as it tried to close out a one-run victory.
After Nathan Karns held the Astros to one run in 6 1/3 innings, Nick Vincent, Vidal Nuno and Joel Peralta nursed a 2-1 lead into the ninth for Cishek, who gave up Valbuena’s 435-foot bomb.
It was Cishek’s first blown save in 10 chances.
"I make a mistake, they tie it up," he said, "it’s easy to just say, ‘Oh, we blew it,’ and kind of tuck your tail between your legs. But not this team. We just keep grinding it out and it’s really fun to be a part of it.
"Robby is just on a tear right now."
PLAY OF THE GAME: A Mariners batboy sprinted from their dugout to the bullpen while Nick Vincent was on trying to protected a one-run lead. Vincent halted as the batboy raced across left field.
The Mariners had noticed that veteran reliever Joel Peralta, who was warming up, was wearing the wrong jersey.
"I didn’t know what was going on,"Peralta said. "I swear to God. They handed me the jersey, and I said, `What the (flip) is this?’ Then I looked to the mound, and I figured it out that I had the wrong jersey on."
Peralta changed jerseys and later got the final out in the eighth inning with the tying run at second. But that’s not the end of the story.
"I’m the judge (of the Kangaroo Court)," Peralta said. "I fined myself $200."
PLUS: Mariners starter Nathan Karns limited the Astros to one run in 6 1/3 innings while striking out nine. That makes four straight quality starts with a 2.49 ERA in that span…third baseman Kyle Seager went 3-for-4 and has his average up to .232…reliever Nick Vincent worked a scoreless inning and lowered his ERA to 1.38 for 13 appearances.
MINUS: The top two hitters in the lineup, Nori Aoki and Ketel Marte, were a combined 1-for-9 with four strikeouts…Chris Iannetta struck out three times…the Mariners left runners in scoring position in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
STAT PACK: Robinson Cano leads the American League with 11 homers and 32 RBIs…Cano has a 12-game hitting streak against the Astros. He is batting .451 (23-for-51) in that span…Kyle Seager’s homer in the second inning against Dallas Keuchel was 16th against a left-handed pitcher since the start of the 2015 season. That is the most by any left-handed hitter.
QUOTABLE: Manager Scott Servais said he called Robinson Cano’s homer in the 10th inning. Cano said: "He told me that. I told him to call it more often."
SHORT HOPS: The Mariners need a victory Sunday in the finale to the four-game series to win their seventh straight series. They haven’t won seven straight series since a 14-series run in 2001…home-plate umpire Ben May ejected Houston manager A.J. Hinch after two borderline strike calls resulted in a leadoff strikeout for Carlos Correa in the eighth inning…Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez was ejected by first-base umpire Jeff Nelson, the crew chief, as he took the field for the top of the 10th inning.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners