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Series Preview: Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners

The Astros visit Seattle for three games, looking to pad their lead on the West by beating up on a division opponent.

Preston Tucker blowing a bubble. He will bat third on Friday.
Preston Tucker blowing a bubble. He will bat third on Friday.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

I woke up this morning and thought, "Gosh, for the first time this season, I think I'll be up for writing a game recap this weekend.  Maybe I'll break out the paint brushes and do this one in the style of Van Gogh."  Then I realized that all the games start at like midnight and go until four AM or whatever (I wouldn't know, I usually can't stay up late enough to see the end).  So to heck with that, and I'll opt for the series preview instead.  So if you read this, please leave a comment and tell me how much you would have enjoyed my recap, because it definitely is gratifying to know that my non-work is appreciated.

Meanwhile, the Astros have landed in Seattle for a three game weekend series with the fourth-place Mariners.  Things don't look good for my selection of the M's to represent the American League in the World Series this season, which I am totally okay with.  They carry a 30-37 record into the weekend, 9-1/2 games behind the AL West-leading Astros.  The M's struggles have manifested themselves through the ineptitude of the offense.  They are tied for last in the AL in runs scored despite that they have a legitimate MVP contender in DH Nelson Cruz, who is hitting .309/.370/.562 for a 162 wRC+, 3rd-best in the AL. Former batting champ and perennial MVP candidate Robinson Cano is hitting only .237/.27/.327 for 70 wRC+, hardly living up to his $24M annual salary.

The Mariners' pitching is middle of the pack, held back by a bullpen that is 11th in the AL in ERA.  But their starters are no slouch.  Four of them boast ERA's under 3.80, including the oh-so surprising former Astro J.A. Happ, who is having a career resurrection in Seattle.

Friday, June 19th

On Friday, Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (3-1, 2.00 ERA, 2.32 FIP, 21.3 K-BB%) will start his seventh game since being recalled by the Astros.  He will combine a high-90's fastball with his wicked spike curve and so-far literally untouchable power changeup and try to keep the M's in the bottom of the league in scoring.  His mound opponent will be left-hander Roenis Elias (3-4, 3.67 ERA, 4.39 FIP, 8.5 K-BB%).  The 26-year-old Elias served up eight runs in three innings during his last start and looks to rebound.  So far this year, he has struggled against the Astros in two starts, a trend that the Astros hope to continue with a power-laden offense.  Elias throws a low-90's four-seam and two-seam fastball that he combines with a high-70's curve and a changeup.

Saturday, June 20th

Saturday, Cy Young leader Dallas Keuchel (8-2, 2.04 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 12.8 K-BB%) will face off against 22-year-old Taijuan Walker (4-6, 5.00 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 12.6 K-BB%).  The Astros won't let Walker's season ERA catch them unawares; the former top prospect hasn't allowed more than three runs in a start since May 24th, and has only allowed two runs in his past 13 innings pitched.  The batters will have to contend with his high-90's fastball, cutter, low-70's curve, and a splitter.

Sunday, June 21st

The rubber match is...hold on a sec, stop right there.  How many of you actually know what "the rubber match" even means?  Okay, yeah, it's the third game of the series.  But what makes it rubber?  Read up on it here, and don't say I never did anything for you.

ANYway, the rubber match (which hopefully isn't a rubber match at all, because the Astros are gonna sweep the M's, right?)....

Okay, for real.

The third game will be played on Sunday, and will feature Astros rookie Vincent Velasquez (0-0, 4.66 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 14.3 K-BB%) against ex-Astro non-rookie J.A. Happ.  Velasquez is struggling with walks so far in the major leagues, a trend which really shouldn't continue, as he never had much of a walk problem in the minors.  So far he's allowed almost 6 walks per nine innings, which is negating his excellent strikeout rate and preventing him from going deep into games.  Hopefully Velasquez settles down in his third major league start and is able to pitch deeper into the game than he has to this point.  Happ (3-3, 3.79 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 12.5 K-BB%) is having the best season of his career so far.  The veteran of four different clubs has decreased his walk rate to 5.8%, nearly half of his career rate.  Happ is a four-pitch pitcher armed with a low-90's fastball, a slider, a curve, and a change.