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Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners, May 5-8, 2016

Houston faces the AL West-leading Mariners for four games.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

My, my, my. How one series can change the outlook of things? Am I right? The Houston Astros get a little starting pitching and the bats start launching balls into the stands and the 2016 Astros look more like the team from last year. But that was only two games against the worst team in the AL Central. But it's a start.

The Astro have one three of their last four games and now face the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have a 6.5 game lead over the last-place Astros. The M's have a 1.5 game lead over the only team with a record over .500 in the AL West, the Texas Rangers.

A four-game series win over Seattle would go a long way in calming the nerves of the Houston faithful.

Starting pitching

Thursday: RHP Chris Devenski (0-1, 1.45 ERA,1.07 WHIP) vs. LHP Wade Miley (2-2, 5.06 ERA, 1.34 WHIP)
Friday: RHP Doug Fister (2-3, 4.60 ERA, 1.43 WHIP)  vs. RHP Taijuan Walker (2-1, 1.80 ERA, 1.03 WHIP)
Saturday: LHP Dallas Keuchel (2-4, 5.11 ERA, 1.57 WHIP) vs. RHP Nathan Karns (3-1, 3.81 ERA, 1.34 WHIP)
Sunday: RHP Collin McHugh (3-3, 6.59 ERA, 1.83 WHIP)  vs.  RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (1-3, 4.03 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)

The Astros have needed the starting pitching to setup if they hope to make any noise come October. The team had the worst ERA in the AL in April at 4.97. Just four days into May, the Astros are already the fifth-best with a 3.75 ERA.

The one major change the Astros have made in the rotation thus far has been putting Chris Devenski into the rotation. Devenski allowed just one run over 13 1/3 innings as a reliever. In his first start, Devenski allowed two runs over five innings against Oakland. The question will be will we see Scott Feldman come in again to pitch as Devenski's other half of a tandem pitching group. Feldman was effect for three innings in relief after Devenski.

Wade Miley started the season by giving up 14 runs over first 15 2/3 innings. He has turned it around his last two starts, allowing just four runs over 16 1/3 innings -- including a complete game shutout of the Royals in his last start. Current Astros are batting .308 (20x65) against Miley with a .353 BABIP, 4.40 FIP, 18.1 K%, and 8.3 BB%.

Doug Fister has put together three straight quality starts in his last three outings. In allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings against Oakland on 95 pitches. Taijuan Walker appears to have figured things out with a 2-0 record and a 1.44 ERA in April. He lasted just five innings in his last start, Sunday against the Royals.

One of the biggest questions remaining with the Astros is what is wrong with Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel has given up 16 runs over his last 16 1/3 innings. He had his home-winning streak broken in his last start against the Twins -- Keuchel gave up five runs over 4 1/3 innings.

The Astros appeared to correct what problems Nathan Karns had as a starter in 2016. Before his start against Houston, he gave up 10 runs over 15 innings. Since and including his start against Houston, Karns has allowed three runs over 13 innings.

Collin McHugh hasn't figured it out in 2016 minus his home-opener starting. McHugh has given up 32 hits over his last four starts. Hisashi Iwakuma struggled against Houston this season, he allowed five runs in five innings on seven hits.

Relief pitching

The Astros bullpen has settled down for the most part. Scott Feldman, Michael Feliz, Will Harris, and Luke Gregerson haven't allowed a run over the past week. Gregerson is still rolling along in the closer role, picking p two saves in as many chances.Since allowing two earned runs against the Oakland, Ken Giles hasn't allowed a run or a hit over his last three appearances (2 2/3 innings).

The Mariners bullpen has been just as good, allowing just earned runs over the past week. Closer Steve Cishek is 3-for-3 in save chances.

Lineup

Guess how is leading the Astros in OPS, slugging, and OBP over the team's last six games? Probably wouldn't have guessed Jason Castro. Castro is batting .467 (7x15) with two home runs and five RBIs. Carlos Gomez has been hot too in his time back from injury. He is batting .417 (5x12) with four doubles. Colby Rasmus (.091) and Tyler White (.059) have come back to earth over the last six games.

Nelson Cruz is locked, batting .389 (7x18) with a home run and three RBIs in his last six games. Kyle Seager (.389) and Robinson Cano (.360) are swinging hot bats as well. Adam Lind, on the other hand, is not, batting .125 in his last 16 at-bats.

Prediction

In the last series, I called for the sweep. This time, I'm going to say the Astros get a four-game series victory . The bats have come around for the most part. Astros miss king Felix again and the M's starters minus Walker are as Lloyd McClendon put it "average".