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2019 Series Previews #20: Houston Astros @ Seattle Mariners

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The Astros (40-20, 1st in AL West) stroll into Seattle for four against the Mariners (25-37, 5th in AL West)

MLB: Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Astros

Houston comes to Seattle after handling the A’s in Oakland to the tune of a 3-game sweep. The final win came with a bit of an effort as the Astros pulled out the win in just their second extra-innings game of the season. They continue to roll through opponents even with a lineup made up mostly of Round Rock players while the big names continue to work their way back from injury. The kids have filled in nicely though, with each of them contributing to wins either with their bats or their gloves.

Of Bats and Men

MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Brantley and Bregman continue to hold down the fort at the top of the lineup, and both have been hot while doing it. Brantley has been particularly good in the past two series, and is currently riding a 6 game hitting streak. Bregman is right behind him with a .320/.393/.600 slash line himself and a couple of homers, both of which came in the same game against the Cubs.

Meanwhile, each of the Round Rock call ups have had spurts of brilliance but Derek Fisher has probably been the best on a consistent basis. Fisher is slashing .300/.391/.600 this week in 5 games, 3 of them at the leadoff spot, and has mashed a double, a triple, and a homer in that time.

Chirinos and Gurriel have also turned it up a little this week, with Chirinos popping a double and a homer in just 4 hits. Gurriel has also been steady this week and is once more swatting doubles at a good pace, with 3 in his last 6 games.

Straw deserves special mention here as well for stealing 3 bases in one game in Oakland, making a case to work his speed into the lineup more often. After that things get a little dicey for the offense, but Kemp did at least manage a .300 OBP this week.

On the Pen

MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The bullpen seemed to be getting back on the right foot in the series against Oakland before falling off a little in the third game. Will Harris and Ryan Pressly, who have been two of the Astros’ three best relievers, would both give up solo homers (Harris’ first of 2019) to allow Oakland to tie it up. Luckily Osuna and Josh James tamped things down as Houston took it in extras, but it was still a little unusual to see from the normally lockdown bullpen.

Things were good for the relievers the rest of the time in Oakland, with just the two runs surrendered by Harris and Pressly. The series against the Cubs was not so good, though, and was probably one of the worst for the bullpen we’ve seen in 2019.

While it has been a bit of a stumble for Houston’s bullpen this week, they easily remain one of the best groups of arms in the majors. They’ll need to be managed a little carefully in Seattle after having to do some extra work yesterday afternoon. Luckily, Verlander gave them depth and will have a better-than-average chance to do so in game 4 of this series.

Mariners

Since last we saw the plucky Mariners they have been in absolute free fall, sliding from first all the way to last in the division during that time. While Seattle was enjoying the fool’s gold of their red hot start to 2019, they have since turned since turned back into the rebuilding pumpkin of a team we expected them to be. This week has not been much kinder to them as they alternated being beat up on by the Rangers and then the Angels while losing back-to-back series, including 3 of 4 from the Halos. They’ll have a challenge against the division-leading Astros as they look to try and end what seems like a month-long skid for them.

Of Bats and Men

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The M’s have had a decent week, offensively speaking, though it hasn’t exactly been gangbusters. Jay Bruce had one of the better weeks for them this week, which means he was promptly traded to Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Encarnacion was able to contribute admirably as well and continues to be one of Seattle’s better hitters, so I expect him to be traded before the end of this series. I’m just kidding about that... sort of.

Another bat to be wary of is catcher Tom Murphy, who’s had a hot week and a really good 2019 so far. Indeed, Seattle’s catching platoon is pretty strong as he’s actually the backup catcher. Omar Narvaez sees the most work behind the dish, and he’s not exactly a slouch with the bat himself. Mallex Smith and Shed Long have also enjoyed success in recent days, though that’s more of a recent surge than anything they’ve sustained all season.

Probably the best 2019 hitter for the Mariners is Daniel Vogelbach, who can certainly muscle a ball out of the park if he gets a hold of one. He’s cooled somewhat as May turned to June, but he’s still very much a power threat.

Also worth mentioning that old friend Domingo Santana has slowly fallen off since leading the league in RBI’s to start the season. He can still drive them in, but he’s not producing at nearly the production he was to open 2019.

On the Pen

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle is still trying to figure out its bullpen situation as it has been in flux as the season has worn on. Roenis Elias is seeing most of the save opportunities, but he may not be long for 9th with Hunter Strickland making his way back from the IL. Elias hasn’t exactly been dominant in relief, but he has converted 5 of 6 save chances.

Brandon Brennan is probably the most trusted arm in Seattle’s pen this season, having pitched the most inning with 31 and managing to hold opponents to a .185 AVG and 1.13 WHIP.

There’s also new-guy Anthony Bass, who was recently signed by the Mariners and has been thrust directly into the mix, so we may see him in some high leverage situations this week. He’s looked good so far in 6.1 innings of work and was able to nab a save for himself during that time.

Bass replaced a DFAd Zac Rosscup, who has actually having a good season but apparently wasn’t built for how the Mariners were planning to use their pen according to Scott Servais, whatever that means.

Connor Sadzek and Cory Gearrin are good middle-innings options for the Mariners and you can expect to see them try and get the ball to the back end of the pen if the starter is chased early. They’ve both enjoyed good seasons so far, but Sadzeck has the better stats of the two.

Pitching Match Ups

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1: Corbin Martin, RHP (1-1, 5.51 ERA) vs. Wade LeBlanc, LHP (2-2, 6.99 ERA)

Corbin Martin gets the ball in game 1 after three straight start where he failed to get past 4 IP. This came after an excellent debut to 2019 where he went 5.1 innings of 2-run ball while striking out 9. He has yet to replicate that performance, though, and has struggled with command ever since. The Astros seem content to let him try to work out issues at the major league level, so hopefully he can turn things around because I can’t imagine he’ll get too many more starts if not.

LeBlanc will toe the slab for the Mariners in his 4th start since returning from the IL halfway through May. He sustained the injury injury that sidelined him while facing off against Houston the last time they were in town. LeBlanc has not looked great in his three starts since returning, getting shelled by the Twins in 2.1 innings of work before two pedestrian outings against Oakland and the Rangers. Seattle will probably hope for a little length out of him as the bullpen has been pulling extra duty and will be called on for more of the same in the next game.

Game 2: Wade Miley, LHP (5-3, 3.25 ERA) vs. TBD

Wade Miley makes this start after one of his better games this season where he went 7 innings while striking out 9, both season highs. Unfortunately he surrendered 2 runs in that match, which was enough to earn him the tough-luck loss. Miley has quietly been the Astros second-most consistent starter, maybe even their best, this season. He’s only given up more than 3 runs in one of his 12 games so far in 2019. His last time in Seattle was not his best, as his stuff seemed to elude him and he was chased after just 4 innings.

Yusei Kikuchi, the Mariners’ big international signing during the offseason, is normally the starter in this spot but the M’s have announced that they will rest him this time around. It’s not much of a change for them as the plan was only ever to allow him to go one inning due to a previously announced pitching regimen. He’s been beat up in has past few starts though, so they’ll give him a breather instead. They have yet to name a replacement, so it could either be a AAA call up or a bullpen day for Seattle in this spot.

Game 3: Brad Peacock, RHP (5-2, 3.17 ERA) vs. Mike Leake, RHP (4-6, 4.71 ERA)

Peacock has been on some sort of a roll in the past five games since he switched it up to pitch out of the windup full time. In that time he’s gone 29 innings with only 3 runs surrendered and has struck out 35 batters. He’s sporting a 0.93 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP, and batters are hitting just .163 off of him since changing his delivery. Peacock looked good in his one appearance against the Mariners earlier this season, but that was during a brief bullpen stint while the Astros ran with a 4-man rotation.

The M’s send Mike Leake to the mound, who rides in on one of his better starts of 2019. His last time out saw him hurl 7 innings of 2-run ball against the Angels, but he would only strike out 2 in those frames. However, a low K/9 rate is par for the course with Leake these days. Though not dominant, he has been dependable for Seattle, having yet to miss a start and going at least 5 innings in each one, but is easily capable of getting through the sixth. He is prone to having a clunker from time to time though, even if he can eat up innings in those games.

Game 4: Justin Verlander, RHP (9-2, 2.27 ERA) vs. Tommy Milone, LHP (1-1. 3.60 ERA)

Verlander seems to be flexing some serious pitching muscles these days, making this start after an 8 inning, 1-run effort against Oakland this past weekend. It was his 9th start out of 13 where he’s given up 1 run or less and the 5th straight time he pitched into the 7th inning or beyond. He only pitched 6 innings when he faced Seattle earlier this season, but did strike out 11 in that one and only allowed a single run.

JV will face off against Tommy Milone, who was signed to a minors deal by Seattle in the offseason after pitching in DC last year. He was called up a few weeks ago to take Erik Swanson’s spot in the rotation and has performed well in the three starts since. He would fail to get out of the 5th inning in his last start, but did do so his previous two and has yet to surrender more than 2 earned runs in a start. However, his career numbers are not pretty, so those three starts may not be indicative of his performance in this game.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, June 3rd @ 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 / ESPN

Game 2: Tuesday, June 4th @ 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 3: Wednesday, June 5th @ 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 4: Thursday, June 6th @ 2:40 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

  • 23%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (50 votes)
  • 65%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (138 votes)
  • 8%
    Series Split 2-2
    (17 votes)
  • 0%
    Mariners Win 3-1
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Mariners Sweep 4-0
    (3 votes)
210 votes total Vote Now