Series Preview: Astros at Mariners, April 21-23, 2014

Stephen Brashear

Astros and Mariners, one team will have their losing streak come to end this series.

Houston Astros (5-14) at Seattle Mariners (7-11)

A losing streak will come to an end tonight. The question is, will it be the Mariners' six-game slide or the Astros' seven-game noisedive? Both teams hoped to improve upon their 2013 campaigns in different ways, M's with big money free agents and the Astros will "smart" signing, trades, and call-ups. Both have yet to work out in 2014, but the season is young.

Failure to Launch

What if I told you that the Astros would not be in dead last in the American League in every pitching category? What if I told you George Springer has already been called up and he has a five-game hitting streak? What would you guess the Astros' record would be through 19 games compared to last year? You probably wouldn't guess it would be the same at 5-14. It is 5-14. The main cause for this has been the lack of hitting all a around the Astros lineup.  It doesn't help that the team's number one starter will miss his start Tuesday in Seattle.

The Astros are last in runs scored (52), hits (119), batting average (.192), and on-base percentage (.265) in the major leagues. During this losing streak Chris Carter is 1-for-17, Marc Krauss 2-for-13, and LJ Hoes 2-for-17. I didn't have to single out these three players because the rest of the roster isn't much better.

Jose Altuve and George Springer have been two bright spot during this tough stretch. Altuve has seven hits in his last 28 at-bats and has four stolen bases in his last seven games. Springer is 6-for-22 in his young career with a run-batted in and stolen base.

The Astros bullpen has played a factor in this latest tailspin too, Chad Qualls blew a save in Oakland with a 3-1 lead. Jerome Williams has given up nine runs in 12. innings of work. On the other side of the coin, Matt Albers, Anthony Bass, and Kevin Chapman have collectively pitched 11.1 scoreless over the team's last seven games.

Winless in Seattle

Robinson Cano said to anyone that would listen that the Mariners were still a pitcher and right-handed bat away from being a contender. This was attempt to get M's ownership to open up the teal wallet some more, Yankees-style. Cano was right. Seattle is near the bottom in most offensive and pitching categories.

Corey Hart is the only Mariner hitting at the moment with any consistency over the last seven games - batting .500 (8-16). Cano is batting .200 ( 5-25), Dustin Ackley .222 (4-18),  Justin Smoak .235 (4-17), and Mike Zunino .286(4-14).

Fernando Rodney has been Fernando Rodney, making his saves interesting but closing out 3 of his first four. Danny Farquhar has been the best out the pen thus for the M's, allowing just one run over 9.2 innings in 2014.

Pitching Matchups

LHP Dallas Keuchel (1-1, 3.50 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (3-0, 1.91 ERA, 0.74 WHIP)

Dallas Keuchel's stats don't bare it out but he has pitched his butt off in 2014. Allowing just three runs over his last 13 innings of work. He is top-five in the American League for groundball-to-flyball rate (1.65) in this young season, he is third behind fellow Astros Jarred Cosart.

Corey Hart is 2-for-6 with two home runs off the lefty. Those two home runs are the only extra-base hits allowed to current Mariners hitters in Keuchel's career and they are batting .222 (6-27) as a group.

Felix Hernandez is coming off a pitchers duel with Yu Darvish in his last start. He is having a great start to the season, posting a 3-0 record with a 1.91 ERA and 0.74 WHIP. He has four quality starts already in the young season. The King has lost some of his zip on the fastball but is getting batters out with his changeup now.

Jose Altuve is 2-for-6 and Jason Castro is 2-for-5 with two double against the king.

RHP Collin McHugh (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP) vs. RHP Erasmo Ramirez (1-2, 7.50 ERA, 1.78 WHIP)

As we previously reported, Scott Feldman will not make his scheduled start. In his place will be Collin McHugh.

Collin McHugh was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City to replace Feldman in the rotation. Houston selected McHugh off waivers on December 18, 2013 from Colorado. He has pitched 14 innings in Triple-A Oklahoma City this season, posting a 4.50 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. Two of his four appearances have been starts, including his most recent start on April 17 against Colorado Springs - 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, O BB, 3 SO.

Erasmo Ramirez has had a rough start to the season, allowing 15 runs in 18 innings of work. That includes a home run in each of starts. His main weapon of choice is the change up. On August 29, 2013, Ramirez pitched 5.2 innings against Houston - allowing two runs on five hits.

RHP Jarred Cosart (1-2, 7.36 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) vs. RHP Chris Young (0-0, 3.27 ERA, 1.55 WHIP)

It's the same story for Jarred Cosart,the Astros will win if he can keep his electric stuff under control. Case in point, his last outing, he gave up seven runs and four walks without retiring a second batter against Oakland. Cosart made his final start in 2013 against the M's - 5 IP, 0 ER, 6 BB, 3 SO.

Chris Young has arisen from the grave. The Dallas, TX product hasn't pitched since 2012. He pitched six scoreless innings in his first start this season against the A's. In his most recent start, he gave up four runs on seven hits in three innings against the Marlins. Dexter Fowler is the only Astro to previously face him and he is 3-for-7.

Predication

Astros will take one of three games in Seattle. George Springer will get his first home run during the series.

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