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2019 Series Preview #5: Houston Astros @ Seattle Mariners

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The Astros (8-5, 2nd in AL West) arrive in the Emerald City to face off against the white-hot Mariners (13-2, 1st in AL West)

MLB: Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Astros

Houston rolls into Seattle after what was one of the better homestands in recent memory. After a frustrating road trip to start the season they would squeak by the A’s in the home opener before really turning it on and taking the next five games for a perfect 6-0 stay at Minute Maid Park. Since that first game it’s been an offensive onslaught for the Astros as they would score 33 runs across the final five games on their way to a platinum sweep.

A big part of the offense has been the resurgence of Altuve, who exploded in the Yankees series for 4 home runs, including 2 in the final game off of former Astro-killer James Paxton. He would also go 10-for-24 across the 6 games with 3 walks, including a game winner against A’s ace closer Blake Trienen. Bregman also deserves some love for seeing the ball quite well this week, to the tune of a .529/.591/.647 slash line with a couple of doubles to his name. Here’s hoping he can get back in the lineup for this series.

Thing is, if we’re talking heroes of the week here you could really go down most of the line and pick people out. New hires Chirinos and Brantley both turned in some timely clutch hitting while Kemp and Marisnick both delivered in the bottom of the lineup to help keep the offense churning. It was nice to see 7 players on the week hit with an OPS of 1.044 and that doesn’t even include Correa and Gurriel, who clocked in at .993 and .912, respectively.

Really the only players to not produce on at least a good-enough scale were Reddick, Stassi, and White. And while you can chalk his bad numbers up to small sample size, I would say most Astros fans are waiting for White to produce at a bit more of an elite level out of the DH position.

And while it was nice to see the offense turn in some hot numbers over the course of this homestand, the real heroes may have been the arms out of the bullpen. Pressly seems to have picked up right where he left off last season with some stellar relief performances and even managed to pick up his first save of the season while giving Osuna a spell.

Will Harris has also been impressive in limited time, as was Framber in the one game he played in. On a side note, he’s been sent down to AAA Round Rock, so we won’t be seeing much Frambé on this trip. Meanwhile Osuna and Rondón each allowed a single earned run in their time on the mound, though Rondón did allow a number of inherited runners to score after coming in in relief of Josh James.

Speaking of James, he’s really been a sore spot out of the pen for the Astros this week, dropping an absoultely ghastly 6 earned runs in 3 innings of work against the A’s and Yankees. Though some of those did come after he left the game, as I mentioned above, he looks to be struggling with command a little as we head into the midpoint of April.

The Astros will look to do their own dirty work and make up some ground on the Mariners as it seems they can’t rely on any other baseball team to grab a W from that salty lot.

Mariners

As for the Mariners, it’s hard to know where to begin. They’ve been setting the entire league on fire after getting off to the hottest start in franchise history. They’ve set records left and right, including homering through all 15 games so far this season. While they’ve mostly done it against teams not expecting to compete, they did open the season by taking 5 of 6 against both Boston and Oakland, who were both playoff teams just last year. The silver lining for Astros fans has to be that the M’s have yet to face an elite pitcher who has not been struggling to start the season, but it will still be a test to see if the rotation can pour some cold water on the red-hot bats of the Mariners.

The hottest player so far has to be their big, beefy first baseman Daniel Vogelbach, who has been crushing long balls left and right with 5 in the past week alone. He also managed to send the game winner out of park in yesterday’s match against the Royals, which marked their 6th straight win in a row as well. Dee Gordon has also turned into a hitting threat atop the lineup suddenly, swatting a .500/.545/.750 slash line out of the leadoff spot.

Oh, and let’s not forget Edwin Encarnación, who managed to mash two homers in the same inning against the hapless Royals. This from a guy that the Mariners were reportedly looking to flip after acquiring him from the Indians, but couldn’t find a buyer. Jay Bruce has also been hitting the long bombs this week, dropping 4 on unsuspecting opponents after looking almost like a flameout with the Mets last season.

That doesn’t even cover former Astro Domingo Santana, who you may remember was part of the ill-fated Carlos Gomez trade, or Tim Beckham, both of whom have had similar weeks to Gurriel and Correa in terms of OPS. There’s really not a terrible part of their lineup during this last week as the hot streak has only gotten hotter, though I guess you can say that Mitch Haniger and Bruce have been lackluster with their respective OBP’s hovering near .250.

Meanwhile, Seattle’s pen has been a little hit or miss the past week based off of stats. While those who have hit are doing so with a mostly 0.00 ERA, those who miss have been giving up runs like it’s their job. Indeed, 14 of the runs surrendered on the week have come from just 4 of the relievers while the remaining five don’t have any runs on their ledgers.

Though they originally started the season with Hunter Strickland closing their games, he was recently placed on the IL due to a lat strain. Since then it’s been a bit of a closer-by-committee situation for the M’s, though Anthony Swarzak and Roenis Elias seem to be seeing the most late-inning duties, each notching a save this past week.

It seems that the next arms up would be Matthew Festa and Zac Rosscup as they both have been called on in save situations, though neither managed to lock it down. Rosscup would escape his adventure in saving without any damage, but Festa managed to blow his with 2 runs surrendered in just 0.2 innings against the Royals.

The Mariners face their first big test on the young season as they square off against the Astros in order to maintain a solid perch atop the AL West. The ‘Stros represent the first team they’ll be playing this season who are actually over .500 during the series, and currently more than one game over.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Wade Miley, LHP (1-1, 2.31 ERA) vs. Wade LeBlanc, LHP (2-0, 4.76 ERA)

Miley makes this start after a very impressive showing against the A’s, throwing 5.2 innings of shutout ball and only allowing 4 hits and 2 free passes. Miley had his secondary stuff working through most of that game and managed to shut down an A’s offense that can certainly mash when it’s on. This will be just the 4th time he’s faced Seattle in his career, but he should be familiar with T-Mobile field after spending most of 2016 there before being traded to the Orioles.

Meanwhile, the Mariners will counter with Wade LeBlanc, who is coming off of a 6 inning performance against the White Sox where he would give up 2 earned runs off of 6 hits and a walk. He did have a poor opening to the season, though as he would get rocked for 6 runs, 4 earned, against the Red Sox in just 5.1 innings of work. LeBlanc has not had a lot of success against the Astros in a Mariners uniform, getting slapped for a 6.75 ERA against them in 6 games against them in 2018, thought a couple of those were from when he was still in the bullpen.

With how hot the Mariners’ offense has been it’s hard to say that Miley will definitely have success against such potency, but if the Astros can slug against any pitcher in the Mariners’ rotation, it’s LeBlanc.

Game 2: Justin Verlander, RHP (1-0, 4.24 ERA) vs. Félix Hernández, RHP (1-0, 4.26 ERA)

Verlander will make his fourth start of the year after a couple of rather lackluster performances where he has not really come with his ace stuff. He would still manage a decent enough start with 6 innings of 3-run ball against the Yankees offense. But his command wasn’t quite what we expect for JV, even though it was definitely an improvement over his janky performance against the Rangers.

As for the Seattle ace, Hernández continues to be a bit of a shadow of his former self. He would only go one inning against the Royals before having to leave the game with a stomach flu, so you can forgive his 2 earned runs for that reason. His first game out would be against the Angels, where he would surrender 3 runs, 1 earned, in a 5.1 inning performance. He did look good in that game, though that may not continue against an Astros team that has absolutely dominated King Félix in recent memory as evidenced by the 8.56 ERA in his past six starts against them.

If JV can regain his mojo then I expect it to be advantage Houston here, especially with the Astros’ luck against the former King.

Game 3: Gerrit Cole, RHP (0-2, 3.32 ERA) vs. Marco Gonzales, LHP (4-0, 3.16 ERA)

Cole’s 0-2 record is certainly not indicative of how well he’s pitched to start the season, though he hasn’t exactly been the lights out arm he was at the beginning of 2018. It has been three straight quality starts for him, however, with his last time out a 7 inning, 3 run showing against the Yankees. His strikeout numbers weren’t quite there as they had been in his first two starts, with only 6 K’s across those 7 IP, but he’s still throwing the heat and working the slider, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him with his first W after this game.

Marco Gonzales will toe the slab for Seattle after becoming just the second Mariners pitcher ever to win his first four starts of a season. His starts have looked somewhat similar to Cole’s though he’s nowhere near him in strikeout rate, which sits in the neighborhood of 5.61 per 9. He did have a stellar 8.1 inning, 1-run outing against the Angels in his second to last start though, but has trended more towards giving up 3 runs in each of his three others.

I’m going to call this one a draw as Gonzales is actually one of Seattle’s better starters, but Cole might get lucky off the fact that Astros have managed to hit him hard the last few times they’ve face him.

Fun Fact

José Altuve is the first player to ever hit two home runs off of James Paxton in the same game.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, April 12th @ 9:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Mariners - 710 ESPN
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Mariners - ROOTNW

Game 2: Saturday, April 13th @ 8:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Mariners - 710 ESPN
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Mariners - ROOTNW

Game 3: Sunday, April 14th @ 3:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Mariners - 710 ESPN
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Mariners - ROOTNW

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (61 votes)
  • 46%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (158 votes)
  • 25%
    Mariners Win 2-1
    (86 votes)
  • 9%
    Mariners Sweep 3-0
    (32 votes)
337 votes total Vote Now