SEA@HOU: Ackley delivers with bat, glove vs. Astros

ST. LOUIS -- Dustin Ackley has come full circle this season for the Mariners, returning temporarily to second base and hitting leadoff on Sunday for the first time this year after filling that role for much of 2012.

Ackley's change is largely due to attrition, as a hamstring injury to shortstop Brad Miller opened up the top spot in the batting order. And Ackley -- who shifted to the outfield in midseason -- has played second base the past two games after rookie Nick Franklin continued struggling at the plate and then made several critical misplays in Friday's 2-1 loss to the Cardinals.

But Ackley has also hit well enough recently to deserve the opportunity, batting .326 since the All-Star break and raising his average from .200 to .256 over the last 55 games.

Franklin Gutierrez is another player with leadoff experience, but manager Eric Wedge wanted to keep Gutierrez fifth in the lineup behind cleanup hitter Kendrys Morales.

"I still want some protection for Kendrys, so I'm putting Gut behind him," Wedge said. "[Ackley] has been putting up pretty good at-bats, so this gives him a chance up there and keeps the speed element up there with him and [Abraham] Almonte."

Paxton gets on base for first time in decade

SEA@STL: Gutierrez's two-run double opens the scoring

ST. LOUIS -- Runs have been hard to come by lately for the Mariners, so there were plenty of happy faces in Seattle's dugout when pitcher James Paxton rounded third and headed home in the fifth inning of Saturday's 4-1 victory over the Cardinals.

But Paxton's teammates got a little extra joy from the sight of the rookie pitcher as he stumbled slightly rounding the base and ambled plateward at a less-than-stunning speed as the 24-year-old became the first Mariners pitchers to score this season in Interleague Play.

"It was pretty cool," a grinning Paxton said. "I hadn't done that in a long time, so it was pretty exhilarating. Apparently my round of third wasn't the greatest, but hey, it worked. I was just glad I could give the guys something to laugh about."

Paxton's last at-bat in a game came 10 years earlier when he was a 14-year-old playing for the Ladner Bantam summer league team in British Columbia. He said he walked that at-bat as well, but he never advanced past first.

Because he played with the designated hitter all through high school, college and in the Minor Leagues, Paxton never batted again until his first road Interleague game on Saturday. He came to the plate twice, striking out his first time after failing to get a sacrifice bunt down with runners on first and second.

But he came to the plate with Dustin Ackley on first in the fifth inning and while trying to bunt again, he drew four straight balls from a suddenly wild Michael Wacha.

Brad Miller then sacrificed both runners up a base. And when Franklin Gutierrez drove a double to left field, Paxton scored from second to give himself a 2-0 lead.

"All I was thinking was just do what Ackley was doing," Paxton said. "If he was running, I was running. I saw the ball go down there and knew I had a good chance of scoring. He was waving me around third, so I was just going to the plate."

Mariners pitchers are 0-for-20 with 13 strikeouts and two walks this season, going into Erasmo Ramirez's start Sunday in the final Interleague game of the year.

Miller out with strained left hamstring

SEA@STL: Miller makes a nice diving play deep in hole

ST. LOUIS -- Rookie shortstop Brad Miller was not in the Mariners' lineup Sunday and will miss at least the next several games after straining his left hamstring during Saturday's 4-1 victory over the Cardinals.

Miller was removed in the fifth inning Saturday and replaced by Carlos Triunfel, who will now take over the shortstop duties because veteran Brendan Ryan was traded to the Yankees last week.

Miller has hit .260 with six home runs and 31 RBIs in 69 games since being called up in late June, but experienced some soreness in his left leg the last few days and felt the hamstring tighten up after running out a sacrifice bunt that set up Seattle's first two runs in Saturday's win.

"It's going to be a few days, at least," manager Eric Wedge said prior to Sunday's series finale. "He's not going to do anything today. He's sore and tight. We'll just take it day to day and see how he feels, but it's going to be at least a couple days."

Triunfel has seen limited playing time in several stints with the Mariners over the past two seasons. He's hit .083 in 24 at-bats this year, but he hadn't played since his Sept. 3 callup this month until replacing Miller on Saturday.

But Triunfel immediately impacted that game with a sacrifice bunt in the seventh, then a sacrifice fly in the ninth for the Mariners' final run.

"He's off to a great start," Wedge said. "He did a nice job situationally for us. The guy hasn't played since he got up here, but he's been working hard in his pregame. To get the bunt down and the sacrifice fly … good for him."

It was the 43rd time -- by 28 individuals -- in club history that a player recorded a sacrfice bunt and sacrifice fly in the same game, but just the second time by a player who didn't start the contest.

Wedge said rookie second baseman Nick Franklin would begin taking more pregame work at shortstop now and serve as the backup there if needed.

Worth noting

• After going 28 games without a home run, Morales had five homers in his past 10 games going into Sunday's series finale. Morales hit .359 during that 10-game stretch.

• Since the start of Interleague Play in 1997, the Mariners have the best ERA in crossover games of any Major League team at 3.62 in 303 games and are 161-142 going into Sunday's finale in St. Louis.

Justin Smoak didn't start at first base for a third straight game Sunday. Wedge said that was partly due to a sore quadriceps muscle and also in order to keep Morales' bat in the lineup at first base, with no DH available in the Interleague series. Smoak will return to the lineup Monday in Detroit.