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2019 Series Preview #46: Seattle Mariners @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (90-50, 1st in AL West) return to Houston for a couple of long series starting with the Mariners (58-82, 5th in AL West)

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Mariners

Seattle has pretty much spiraled into irrelevancy as their record took yet another pummeling in the past two weeks leading into this series. They’ve lost 7 of their last 9 games and were swept twice at the hands of the Yankees and Cubs. They managed to split four games against the Rangers, but that’s hardly difficult these days. The Astros have really ground Seattle under their boots this season, having taken 12 of the 13 meetings between the two teams. Seattle has nothing left to fight for, having been more or less eliminated from postseason contention at this point. But I’m sure they’d like to play spoilers to the Astros’ quest for best record in October, so I wouldn’t count them out just yet.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers Timothy Flores-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners’ offense has been somewhat anemic in recent games though it did come alive for an 11-run outburst this past week in Arlington. Seattle started the season with a historically hot offense before completely falling a cliff. As a team they now rank in the middle to lower dredges of the MLB leaderboards, with particular problems in the BA and OBP departments.

However, there have been signs of life for the beleaguered team’s offense. Third baseman Dylan Moore has been their best hitter with a .368/.520/.474 slash line in his past 7 games. Mallex Smith has also been hot with similar numbers as well as the team’s lone triple in the past two series.

Kyle Seager has experienced a bit of a resurgence for the M’s this year, putting together one of his more solid seasons in recent memory. He leads the team with 2 homers this week, but most of the power for the Mariners has been generated by their beefy 1B Daniel Vogelbach. There hasn’t been much power for the team overall though, having only hit 4 homers in the past 7 games.

Catcher Omar Narvaez also remains a threat in the Mariners’ lineup and is one of their better hitters in the 2019 season. While he was primarily a catcher to start the season, he has seen more use in the DH role as the season has progressed and the Mariners got a look at what they had in him.

While the rest of the team isn’t a complete disaster, anyone who was leading the team in a significant offensive category, or had a big name, was shipped off in July. That includes Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners’ bullpen has been all over the place this season as they are trying to stitch together a group of guys to get them through the season. Most of the pieces who showed talent before the trade deadline have been shipped off and the remaining players are auditioning for their future on the team. That’s not a 100% blanket statement, but there’s not a whole lot in the pen to be happy about if you’re a Mariners fan right now.

The back end of the bullpen is being cobbled together right now after the departure of Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland. Though there aren’t exactly a whole of save opportunities going around at the moment, Matt Magill seems to be getting the most turns in the 9th. However, his stats suggest that he’s not exactly fooling anyone in that role.

The later innings have also seen some work from Anthony Bass, who has had a pretty fine year for the Mariners. He has a WHIP hovering around 1.08 to with a 3.40 ERA in 39.2 innings. Sam Tuivailala has also been getting looks later games and has looked rock solid so far in his 15.1 innings, holding opponents to a 1.17 ERA.

After that it’s not exactly an embarrassment of riches for Seattle’s bullpen. With September call ups for a team going exactly nowhere, it’s hard to imagine who we could see if the game gets out of hand. Seattle has also employed an opener strategy from time to time, so that role could be handed to anyone they want to see.

Astros

Houston has been the opposite of Seattle this season and is well on their way to clamping down the AL West if they can continue playing good ball. The schedule softens up for the team heading forward and they currently sit with a Magic Number of 15 for the dvision. With 4 left against the A’s, it’s conceivable to see it wrapped up sooner rather than later. Not only that but it will be an AL West-a-palooza for the rest of 2019 as the only remaining non-division opponent the Astros will face in the regular season are the Royals. Houston hasn’t lost a series since August 19th and is 11-4 during that time.

MLB: Houston Astros at Milwaukee Brewers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The offense has continued to mash in recent games as we have seen a steady amount of production from the top of the lineup. Bregman has been red-hot this week, as has Abraham Toro. The rookie has had a productive road trip, popping 2 homers and a triple and providing all the offense from either team during JV’s no-hitter.

George Springer has also gone off this week, popping 3 home runs and a double of his own. Unfortunately, he also took a nasty tumble in the last game against the Brewers and had to be carted off the field when he hit his head on the wall. He is currently day-to-day and is being evaluated. They said that he’s doing “ok,” but I wouldn’t expect to see him to start this series.

Gurriel also continued to produce in the past week though he has cooled just a little compared to earlier in August. Things got a little cold for the Astros after that though with several Asotrs regular slumping a little through last week.

The includes Yordan Alvarez, who has come down to earth somewhat since his torrid start to his career. Fortunately he’s still getting on base with a good number of walks, and he can certainly pop one out of the stadium if he turns on it, but there is a bit of an adjustment going on.

Houston Astros v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The bullpen has actually had a decent week, though they did get some time off thanks to Verlander’s no-no and the mini-series in Milwaukee. There were mostly good performances all around, with Joe Biagini logging a very nice bounceback outing against his former team in Toronto. Will Harris also continues to have an excellent season for the Astros, and we even got some steady performances from most of the rest of the arms.

One pitcher who has struggled recently, and not for the first time this season, is Roberto Osuna, who would blow a save against the Brewers in Monday’s game. Luckily the Astros were able to come back and get the win, but it was yet another example of Osuna’s second half issues. It is also unfortunate because he went through a period where things had been seeming to improve, but slipped up in games against the Rays and Brewers.

The bullpen is also struggling through the injury bug, with three normally reliable arms all on the shelf. McHugh, Peacock, and Pressly could all be back by the end of the month or see their recoveries bleed into October. Pressly seems the most likely of the bunch to return based off of information we’ve heard, but that’s mostly because we haven’t heard really any information on McHugh and Peacock.

The Astros’ pen is probably the weak point on the team at the moment, but it’s not as terrible as fans would believe. It also helps that Astros starters are normally reliable innings-eaters and usually doesn’t expose the pen too often.

Pitching Match Ups

MLB: Houston Astros at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1: Marco Gonzales, LHP (14-11, 4.30 ERA) vs Wade Miley, LHP (13-4, 3.06 ERA)

Marco Gonzales will make this start during a decent but mostly pedestrian season for the Mariners. He’s had a few dominant outings where he can go 6 or 7 innings without giving up more than a couple of runs, but has also turned in a few stinkers. That includes his most recent game against the Rangers where he was roughed up for 6 runs off of 7 hits in just 5.2 innings of work. Those were after a couple of solid outings in a row though, but not exactly dominant. This will be Gonzales’ fourth start against the Astros this year, and they’ve been able to tag him for increasing amounts of runs each time they have faced. If the pattern holds, expect 5 runs tonight.

Wade Miley gets the ball for Houston after a shaky outing against the Blue Jays. He didn’t give up an earned run in that game, but would only go 3.2 innings and walked 5 of the 18 batters he faced. The defense didn’t help much with an unearned run scored on Miley, but it certainly wasn’t his best work. Wade has started against the Mariners 4 other times this season and did struggle through one outing, but has been otherwise solid against them. Especially at home where he’s limited them to just 3 runs across 12 combined innings.

Game 2: Tommy Milone, LHP (3-8, 4.90 ERA) vs Framber Valdez, LHP (4-7, 5.55 ERA)

Tommy Milone has swung back and forth between starter and “bulk innings” guy for the Mariners this season, but has mostly been a slightly worse version of Marco Gonzales. He’ll come out and have a good to dominant outing before getting blown out of the water in other random appearances. He is coming into this game following one of his best games of the season, having tossed 5 innings of 1-run ball against the Rangers and limiting them to just 3 hits. This will be his 4th outing against Houston, who he’s had success against in 2019. He did not give up more than 2 runs in any of those games while going at least 5 innings. None of those were traditional starts and came after the use of an opener.

Framber Valdez had an outing best left forgotten during his last game against Toronto. He surrendered 6 runs across 5.2 innings in that one, which was the 5th time he’s given up at least 4 runs in his last 6 starts. Framber is basically trying to hold down the final spot in the rotation while the team recovers from injuries. While there have been flashes of brilliance there, the audition has not gone well for Valdez. This will be his first time facing Seattle in 2019. Framber actually started his MLB career with 4.1 innings of shutout ball against the Mariners back in 2018.

Game 3: Yusei Kikuchi, LHP (6-9, 5.36 ERA) vs Justin Verlander, RHP (17-5, 2.56 ERA)

Kikuchi has been a bit of a bust after he made a splash joining the Mariners during the offseason. Like a lot of pitchers this year, he’s been giving up homers at a high rate. He’s also struggling with walks and doesn’t have a very high strikeout rate. He did fire off an absolutely dominant complete game shutout against Toronto back in August, but immediately followed that up with a 4-inning, 5-run outing against the Yankees. Kikuchi has shown flashes of what made him such an attractive free agent in the offseason, but has been mostly a BOTR style pitcher in 2019.

Verlander gets the ball for the Astros after an absolute masterpiece of a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays. Verlander is easily the favorite for the Cy Young this year after that, but it might also have to do with the fact that he leads the AL in ERA (2.56), WHIP (0.77), BAA (.166), and has done it while leading for innings pitched (193). He’s also tied for first in wins at 17 and is in second for strikeouts at 257. Verlander will also have a chance to get to 3,000 career strikeouts this season. Just utter domination.

Game 4: TBD vs Gerrit Cole, RHP (15-5, 2.81 ERA)

While the Mariners have not formally announced who will make this start, they did hand rookie Justus Sheffield the ball the last time this spot was up. Sheffield did really well in that spot for the M’s, tossing 5 innings of shutout ball against the Cubs. That did follow a bit of a disastrous 4.1 inning outing against the Yankees where coughed up 5 runs though. The Mariners may be thinking about employing an opener for this game, which could be a reason they haven’t announced a starter here.

Houston will counter with Gerrit Cole, who looked just as dominant as ever in his last start against the Brewers. He would rock through 6 dominant innings of 1-run in that one and log yet another double-digit strikeout game at 14. It was his fourth consecutive 10+ strikeout night, and his 16th one overall this season. Cole is now the first Astros to ever log at least 3 14-strikeout games in a single season. This will be his third start against the Mariners this year, and he has looked good in his other two. That goes double in his home outing against them where he tossed 7 innings of 1-run ball.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Thursday, September 5th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Mariners 710 ESPN / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Mariners - ROOTNW / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 2: Friday, September 6th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Mariners 710 ESPN / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Mariners - ROOTNW / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 3: Saturday, September 7th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Mariners 710 ESPN / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Mariners - ROOTNW / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 4: Sunday, September 8th @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Mariners 710 ESPN / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Mariners - ROOTNW / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (30 votes)
  • 62%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (61 votes)
  • 6%
    Series Split, 2-2
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Mariners Win 3-1
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Mariners Sweep 4-0
    (0 votes)
97 votes total Vote Now