It’s always darkest before the dawn.
We knew this stretch of the season would be the dark night of the soul for the 2018 Houston Astros. Four games against the AL Central champions Cleveland Indians, seven games against the two headed beast from the east, the Bosox and the Bombers, and now, to add humility to our misery, two with the AL West leading Seattle Mariners.
Yeah, that last one was hard to write.
And a tough match up it is proving to be. While we come limping in, scarred from battle with the toughest warriors in the American League, the Mariners are riding high, coming in 15-5 in their last 20 games, mostly beating up on the AL’s Little Sisters of Mercy.
OK, I exaggerate. The good sisters are pretty tough.
And on this night we sent our one time but definitely former ace, Dallas Keuchel, (whose season 3.65 ERA going in belies the 4.91 streak he has been on in the last two weeks) against the Mariners’ real ace and known Astros killer, James Paxton. (3.13 ERA)
On this night Keuchel’s season ERA would land at 4.13, Paxton’s at 2.95.
This game was pretty much over by the first inning, as the Mariners opened the game with a a four hit, four run inning, the main blow Kyle Seager’s 3 run homer just into the Crawford Boxes.
The Boxes giveth, the Boxes taketh away.
And if the Astros still held a glimmer of hope that they could come back on Paxton, it became only the faintest flicker after Mike Zunino put the Mariners up 6-0 in the second with a 2 run home run, a 429 foot missile shot at 110.5 MPH.
The Astros would mount their only threat in the bottom of the 2nd, when Carlos Correa opened the inning with a single, followed by a Yuli Gurriel single. Evan Gattis would then launch a moonshot near the Crawford Boxes, but the launch angle on this blast was a little too high, and the ball was caught. A chance to halve the deficit landed a foot too short.
Sometimes the Boxes giveth not.
But Marwin Gonzalez, who collected a single, a double, and a triple this night, all batting right handed, doubled home Correa, but then the eighth and ninth hitters, Max Stassi and Jake Marisnick, both struck out, extinguishing the threat.
The Mariners’ Jean Segura would add another home run in the 5th, concluding the scoring in this game.
Keuchel finished the game allowing 7 hits, 1 walk, and 7 runs in 6.2 innings. He has now allowed 12 home runs in 11 games this year.
If there is a silver lining in this game for the Astros, it is that they hit Paxton harder than he has been hit all year, collecting nine hits. The most he had allowed prior to this game was six. The Astros had 14 hard hit balls (95 MPH+) but only 5 were hits. Unfortunately the Astros were only 1-6 with runners in scoring position. They also grounded into 3 double plays.
Brad Peacock finished Keuchel’s seventh inning as well as the eighth. Joe Smith pitched the ninth. Both pitchers were perfect and both recorded 2 strikeouts each.
After a very rough start to the season Joe Smith has not allowed a run since May 19th, and only one since April 29th.
Tomorrow the Astros try to keep the Mariners’ lead in the AL West to one game. They will send Lance McCullers (7-3, 3.89 ERA) against Wade LeBlanc (1-0, 2.60 ERA)
Game time 7:10 CDT.
Box score and videos here.
Question for discussion. Is it time to consider Collin McHugh or Brad Peacock for a return to the rotation?