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2019 Series Preview #51: Houston Astros @ Seattle Mariners

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The Astros (102-54, 1st in AL West) close out the season on the road starting with two against the Mariners (66-90, 5th in AL West)

Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Snapshot

Astros

The Astros head to the Emerald City after securing their third straight division crown thanks to a series win over the Angels. The team is still fighting for some milestones and is more or less guaranteed to beat the franchise total for wins, which was set just last season. They also became just the 6th team in MLB history with three straight 100-win seasons. Part of the reason the Astros have been able to reach this accomplishment is due to a mostly ineffectual AL West, not counting the A’s. This has been especially true when they face the Mariners, who they have pretty much owned all season. Expect starters to get some rest in the last week of the season, especially if the Astros can get the wins record earlier rather than later.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The offense has been firing on all cylinders, having scored a collective 30 runs in the past 5 games. Almost half of that came in the final game against the Angels where Houston spanked them for 13 runs.

The team has really been led by late-surging MVP candidate Alex Bregman, who has moved his OPS to over 1.000 for the year and I’m sure is hoping to get his average over .300. He now leads the team with 39 homers, and is hoping to make it 40 before the end of the week.

The only better player this week has been Yordan Alvarez, who mashed another couple of home runs this week. Not only is his .474/.500/.895 slash line pretty impressive in the past five games, but he also seemed to hitting the ball the other way a little more often as he adjusts to the league.

Of course the offense has been on a tear so it’s hard to say any one person has been the hottest. Gurriel, Correa, Diaz, Chirinios, and Springer all have an OPS north of 1.000 in the past two series, showing a real team effort for the offense. Altuve has been steady but not as explosive in that time.

Except for a couple of warts the bullpen has been good recently as well. The biggest flaw has been Framber Valdez, who once again struggled on the mound. His stock has plummeted in the past month, and it would seem that his shot at a postseason spot has completely evaporated. Rondon also had a bit of a rough week with 3 runs surrendered in 1.2 innings of work.

However, it’s been mostly good news after that. Pressly made his triumphant return from the IL with a perfect inning, Will Harris continued to show dominance with 2 perfect frames of his own, and Smith continued to look ready for October in his one inning.

Special note should go to Jose Urquidy, who looked pretty good for the majority of his 3 innings this week as he came in to cover for another shaky start from Wade Miley. He’s earned himself a spot in the rotation this week, which could possibly be an audition for the October roster.

Mariners

The M’s limp into the final week of 2019 after yet another disappointing season that will see them miss the postseason again. It must sting a little extra after they started the season as one of the hottest in the MLB, but if there’s one thing the Mariners have become good at in recent years it’s coming just to cusp of relevance before spiraling into obscurity. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they’re a complete disaster, and have actually had a good couple of weeks lately. They lost their most recent series to the Orioles, but won the three before that, including a sweep of the Pirates. Of course, that did come after a 4-game sweep at the hands of these Astros, who Seattle is now 1-16 against for all of 2019.

Seattle Mariners v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

As one would expect from a team circling the drain at this point in the season, the Mariners’ offense is mostly been led by September call ups who are auditioning for a role next season. The big breakout has been Kyle Lewis, who opened his career with three homers in three straight games and has six overall in just 49 at-bats. Lewis has been turning some heads and looks to factor into 2020 for Seattle if his hot start is to be believed.

He hasn’t been the best player in the past week though as that honor belongs to another rookie, Shed Long. Long has slashed .295/.364/.512 on the year with the Mariners, though he has spent time back and forth to AAA and the majors. He’s really turned it on since coming up in September as a regular starter, having seen his BA go all the way from .229 to .295 in that time.

After those two the Mariners have a few more weapons in the lineup, but things begin to thin. Catchers Tim Murphy and Omar Narvaez have been solid both behind and at the plate this season, with Narvaez pulling double duty as DH as well.

Kyle Seager had also been enjoying a rather hot season, but has cooled somewhat in recent games. I also have to mention Daniel Vogelbach as the Mariners’ big home run threat, leading the team with 30, but he’s not quite as scary as he was to start the year.

The Mariners’ bullpen has been a little all over the place as the second half of the season plays out. This is due to a few trades and the M’s getting a look at potential players for next season. As of right now, their closer situation is in more of a committee role with Matt Magill, Anthony Bass, and Sam Tuivailala seemingly the bigger back end pieces.

However, with the Mariners seeing a number of extra innings games recently, reliever Erik Sawnson has also stepped in to close out a few games, garnering a couple saves of his own this past week. It’s hard to pinpoint who will come in and where though as the Mariners are really looking past this season, so we may see some fresh faces getting looks this series.

Pitching Match Ups

Texas Rangers v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Game 1: Gerrit Cole, RHP (18-5, 2.61 ERA) vs Justin Dunn, RHP (0-0, 6.75 ERA)

Cole has been absolutely lights out in the second half of the season and is looking to continue his domination of the strikeout stat. He is currently 11 K’s away from tying the Astros’ franchise record with 313 strikeouts in a single season, currently held by J.R. Richard. With the way he’s been fooling batters it seems like a fair chance at hitting or exceeding that mark. He’s currently on a 7-game double digit strikeout streak and has gone 8 innings in his past three starts.

Meanwhile, the Mariners will counter with their #5 prospect in the form of Justin Dunn. This will be Dunn’s third career MLB game, and he will most likely be on a 2 inning limit as the team is just looking for him to get a taste of the majors. He did not look great in his first start, failing to get out of the first inning and surrendering 2 runs and five walks. His second appearance was better, going 2 innings without giving up a run against the Pirates, but he did walk 3 in that one. His 8 walks to 1 strikeout ratio doesn’t exactly herald control for the rookie, but there’s not enough of a sample size here to draw concrete conclusions just yet.

Game 2: Zack Greinke, RHP (17-5, 3.05 ERA) vs Yusei Kikuchi, LHP (6-10, 5.55 ERA)

Geinke will make his final start of the regular season here and has looked like a pretty solid pickup for the Astros since he came over from Arizona. In nine starts since joining the team he is 7-1 with a 3.48 ERA. Greinke’s last start against the Angels wasn’t exactly stellar as he went just 5 innings and gave up 4 runs, but he did have two solid starts before that, going 6 innings in each game and only giving up 1 run total. This will be Greinke’s first start against the Mariners this season.

Kikuchi continued his disappointing debut season in the states with 4 runs surrendered in 4 innings during his last game. That followed a 2.1 inning performance where he gave up 5 runs against the White Sox. Kikuchi has been up and down since joining Seattle, with several absolutely dominant starts to go with a more than a few eggs laid on the mound. He did well in his last start against Houston though, giving up just 1 run across 5 innings of work. That was more the exception to the rule though, as he has a 6.43 total ERA against the Astros this season.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Tuesday, September 24th @ 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: Wednesday, September 25th @ 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

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    Astros Sweep 2-0
    (200 votes)
  • 8%
    Series Split 1-1
    (20 votes)
  • 1%
    Mariners Sweep 2-0
    (3 votes)
223 votes total Vote Now