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Series Preview #49: Seattle Mariners @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (94-55, 1st in AL West) look to cast off the Mariners (82-67, 3rd in AL West) in the final series between the two clubs

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Mariners

Seattle will stroll into town after one of their more successful series in recent memory, taking 3 of 4 from the Angels at the Big A. However, this would come after a mini-sweep at hands of the last place Padres. They’ve done it while utilizing a mostly top-heavy offense that showed up big in the most recent Angels series, though pitching has certainly been a big part for Seattle as well.

The offense was mostly driven by Haniger, Cruz, and Seager, who would all post an OPS between 1.060 and 1.095 with at least 20 AB. The recent hot streak by Kyle Seager is a most welcome development for the M’s as they’ve been waiting a majority of the season for him to return to form, though it is looking to be too little, too late. Mitch Haniger has done the heavy lifting this week, slashing .407/.393/.667 while playing in all 6 games this week, but Cruz has been right there with him at a slightly higher OPS in just 5 games.

Kristopher Negrón and Daniel Vogelbach are both September call ups who have had effective plate appearances this week, though Vogelbach started the season on Seattle’s roster before cooling his heels in Tacoma for a while. While there wasn’t a whole lot of explosiveness in the rest of the lineup this week, the Mariners would at least keep the line moving with Ryon Healy, Jean Segura, Mike Zunino, and Ben Gamel all reaching a .300+ OBP.

Cano, Span, and Segura have all had decent enough years for Seattle even if the most recent week has not been so kind to them. After that things get a little slim for Seattle off the bench, with no one else with significant AB logging an OPS over .700.

Seattle’s bullpen has really had a fantastic week, with an ER only on 3 of their 10 relievers’ ledgers in the past two series. Chasen Bradford and Nick Vincent would each surrender a run this week while closer Edwin Díaz was tagged for 2 in spite of converting the one save opportunity for which he was called on. Díaz currently sits at 55 saves, tied for third all-time in a single season, and has a good chance of passing or tying 2nd at 57.

Alex Colomé continues to work a solid season after coming over from Tampa, having only give up 5 ER since the beginning of July, though they would all come in two games. James Pazos is another arm working a good season for the M’s, sporting a 2.83 ERA in 44.2 innings with 41 SO. Zach Duke and Adam Warren round out the regulars in Seattle’s pen, with Warren easily having the better stats on the season.

Seattle would use 3 other arms out of the pen this week who were all recent callups with limited time at the MLB level. Shawn Armstong would have the strongest showing, having yet to notch a run in 10.1 innings on the season. Matt Festa and Ryan Cook are also choices, with Festa looking good so far in 5.1 innings while Cook has struggled in a few appearances.

It’s all over but the crying for Seattle at this point but don’t expect them to roll over as they try and play spoiler to the Astros and earn some bragging rights on their way out the door.

Astros

Houston welcomes Seattle after an uplifting series where they would lose a sluggish opening game to the D-backs before exploding for 10 and then 5 runs in the next two. This series win would put the Astros at 12-2 for the month of September and place them firmly in the driver’s seat for the West as the A’s would fumble the series against Tampa Bay.

One of the brighter spots this week was Altuve, who is beginning to look more like his old self with a .368/.478/.579 slash line and a couple of walks with a leadoff homer in Detroit. He’s joined by Reddick as one of the louder bats this week, who would show some much-welcome signs of life at the plate by belting homers in back to back games against Arizona. Springer has also re-established himself as a threat at the top of the order, going 9-for-21 with 3 walks, though he would sit out one game after diving for a ball.

White has continued to be a tough AB for opposing pitchers these past two series, with a .391 OBP to go with a couple of doubles and a homer. Kemp would also not disappoint in a limited role this week, going 2-for-6 with a dinger in Comerica. They’re joined by Gurriel as the last Astro to have at least a decent OPS on the week, though Bregman would at least turn in an above average OBP, getting on at a .407 clip.

No one else in the lineup would create a whole lot of offense this week. There were encouraging signs out of Correa, however, who appears to be working hard to get his hands inside of the ball and has been rewarded with some hits the other way.

As for the relief core, it really does seem as though Hinch is lining up his October bullpen and is giving previews of what direction he’s going in. Unfortunately, the pen has been a little shaky this week, especially in the series against Arizona where multiple runs were surrendered in each game. Though to be expected occasionally, it wasn’t an encouraging sign to see those runs surrendered by McHugh, Rondón, and Osuna, who all factor in as playoff relievers.

Devo was also in the mix this week for the first time in a while as Hinch looked to give him work and a chance to right the sip. He would end up giving up a long home run in his one inning of work, but didn’t allow any other base runners. Peacock looked a little wobbly in his lone inning of work as well while giving up a run, but would go on to strike out the side.

Beyond that Pressly, Harris, and Smith would all have solid weeks with Harris looking to be finding his form after a rather unimpressive first half. Pressly especially looks good this week, notching his first save as an Astro and continuing to establish himself as a big inning reliever since coming over from the Twin Cities.

Houston should be feeling good after gaining a game on Oakland this past series and will try to keep that rolling so as to wrap up the division and possibly spell some starters before October.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Wade LeBlanc, LHP (8-4, 3.56 ERA) vs. Framber Valdez, LHP (3-1, 2.66 ERA)

LeBlanc continues make a name for himself in the Mariners’ rotation while managing to skip almost a full run ahead of his FIP and xFIP. Those of us waiting for him to turn back into a pumpkin will be disappointed to hear that he’s currently on a string of solid starts with his worst one being a 5 inning 2-run grind against San Diego. Before that he hadn’t given up a run in two starts while going 13 IP. The Astros have not had too much difficulty against him this season, though, and will look to add to that today.

Valdez comes into this game after a 4 inning start against Detroit where walks and bad luck would come back around to bite him. After managing to keep opponents to just 1 ER in each of his first 3 starts, he would get tagged for 4 in this one. Once again his control would be off as he would allow 4 BB in this one. Valdez has shown poise to get out of some of the situations he’s been in, but they usually are a result of his 5.32 BB/9 number, so he doesn’t get too much credit for that.

I expect LeBlanc should be more apt to take the advantage here with his experience, but with the caveat that Houston has hit him hard at a few points this season

Game 2: Mike Leake, RHP (10-9, 3.99 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole, RHP (14-5, 2.88 ERA)

Leake makes this start riding a couple of solid appearances where he would give up just 1 ER in 13 innings of work. Before that was not so pretty though, as he would surrender 11 ER over 10.1 innings against Oakland and Arizona in back to back games. His two most recent starts against Houston have been quality starts, but he would get hit around for 5 runs in 6 innings the first time he faced them this season.

Cole takes the mound after a bit of a grind in his last start against Detroit where he would only go 5 innings, but limit Detroit to just 2 runs. Cole has been going a little back and forth between dominance and grind lately, with his high strikeout numbers allowing him to overpower teams when he gets in trouble. He’s needed that at times this year against Seattle, but has also been able to handle them just fine at other points.

Cole has had the better season here and I expect him to out-pitch Leake, though I doubt the Astros will take him lightly.

Game 3: TBD vs. Dallas Keuchel, LHP (11-10, 3.57 ERA)

The Mariners have yet to announce who will make this start, but word is that it will either be James Paxton returning from an undisclosed illness or Roenis Elias will make the start. If he does, it will Elias’ 4th spot start this season as he has been used primarily as a multi-inning reliever. He would do well his last time out, holding down the Angels for 3.2 shutout innings. Meanwhile, everyone should know James Paxton from their fevered nightmares as he is one of the scarier lefty starters in the division. He has been bit by injury and his season has taken a bit of a left turn in recent starts, but has always pitched the Astros tough and would be the least preferred of the two options here.

Houston counters with Dallas Keuchel who would show grit his last time out by bouncing back from a 5-run outing against the Red Sox to soothe the snakes in 6 innings of 2-run ball. As the season got into the middle of June, Keuchel would fall into a rhythm of good stretches of solid starts interspersed with the occasional clunker, becoming more of a MOTR anchor for this staff rather than an ace. Seattle has seen that against him with 3 excellent starts under his belt and one 7-run disaster.

If Paxton makes this start then you have to give any advantage to him, but otherwise Dallas should be more than a match for a spot starter.

Fun Fact

Not Astros related, but after yesterday Mets’ ace Jacob deGrom now has 27 consecutive starts with 3 runs or fewer and 8.0 fWAR. But with an 8-9 record there are people saying that he shouldn’t be considered for the NL CY this year. You can see how that makes some people feel here:

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, September 17th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Mariners - 710 ESPN / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Mariners - ROOTNW / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 2: Tuesday, September 18th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Mariners - 710 ESPN / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Mariners - ROOTNW / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 3: Wednesday, September 19th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Mariners - 710 ESPN / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Mariners - ROOTNW / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (43 votes)
  • 68%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (110 votes)
  • 4%
    Mariners Win 2-1
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    Mariners Sweep 3-0
    (0 votes)
160 votes total Vote Now