As the regular season winds down and fewer and fewer teams remain in the hunt for postseason berths, the Astros continued to be a pesky adversary for the top of the AL West, taking the rubber game in the weekend series against the Mariners 8-3. Seattle entered Sunday's game 1 GB of Kansas City and Oakland for a Wildcard berth, but the Mariners failed to capitalize off of the two teams' continued struggles down the stretch. Sunday's game pitted Collin McHugh against Hisashi Iwakuma, and the Astros bats got the better of the matchup for the second straight game.
Houston opened the scoring in the 2nd when Jake Marisnick came home on a wild pitch from Iwakuma. Seattle would strike back in the 3rd when Michael Saunders scored on a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Brad Miller. Nice job by McHugh to limit some potential damage early, as the M's had 1st and 3rd with nobody out in the inning. Saunders would do the work himself in the 5th, taking a hanging change deep to RF off of McHugh for a 2 run HR to give the Mariners a 3-1 lead. McHugh, Kevin Chapman, Jose Veras, and Tony Sipp wouldn't allow another run from there. The Mariners would.
Following a Jonathan Villar leadoff walk (LEADOFF WALKS ALWAYS LEAD TO RUNS!) and a Robbie Grossman single, Jose Altuve did Jose Altuve things and doubled down the LF line (his 45th 2B on the season and 219th hit), scoring Villar and moving Grossman to 3rd. An intentional walk to Chris Carter followed by a Dexter Fowler strikeout brought Alex Presley to the plate with 1 out, and he delivered a 2 run single to center to put the Astros up for good.
Marisnick put the game out of reach in the 7th with a 3-run HR for the second straight game. I can get on board with Marisnick showing some pop in addition to his stellar defense. Jason Castro would salvage an otherwise forgettable performance at the plate with an RBI infield single in the 8th for good measure, scoring (you guessed it) Altuve.
- Jose Altuve is really, really good. He now sits at 220 hits on the season with 6 games to go in the season. He passed Rod Carew for most hits by a 2B in a season since 1936. The company is getting rarer and rarer. He leads the MLB in hits by 28 (28!) hits. He also leads Victor Martinez by 11 points in the race for the batting title (.345 to .334). Nice moment in the bottom of the 9th when Tom Lawless removed Altuve with 2 outs so the home fans could give him a standing ovation in the Minute Maid Park finale.
- The Astros finish the season 38-43 at home. They went 24-57 at the friendly confines in 2013 and 35-46 at home in 2012. Improvement is fun.
- Collin McHugh continues to be a legitimately good pitcher. The righty is now 11-9 with an impressive 2.73 ERA on the season. Pitcher wins and ERA are useless blah blah blah, McHugh is good, end of story. 6 IP 4 H 3 R 6 K today. Keep on keepin on, Collin.
- The Astros sit at 69 wins with 6 games to go (against the Rangers and Mets no less). 70 wins is beyond attainable, and 75 is still a possibility. Did I mention improvement is fun?