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Game Preview. August 15, 2020, Mariners @ Astros.

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The Astros have won three out of four on this homestand. They hope to make it two in a row against the Mariners behind Cristian Javier.

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Astros pulverized the Mariners last night 11-1, mostly on the strength of a nine-run first inning, highlighted by Yordan Alvarez’ three-run homer on his first at bat of the 2020 season.

The Astros hope to continue their total dominance over the Mariners for the last two seasons behind Cristian Javier. In his first two starts in the big leagues he looked like a prime candidate for Rookie of the Year and future Astros ace, but in his last start he allowed five runs in three innings.

Which Javier we get today will be a prime point of interest in today’s game.

The Mariners counter with a youngster of their own, Nick Margevicius. (Is that Marge- veeseeus, or Marge Vicious, as in sister of Syd Vicious). Margevicius has a 3.24 ERA this year in 8.1 innings. This will be his second start. For his career, including his 2019 performances with the Padres, he has a 6.34 ERA in 65.1 innings pitched.

This will be the 20th game of the season, the one-third mark. The Astros offense is scoring the most runs per game of any team in baseball not playing one mile high. And yet, two critical cogs of the Astros machine, present and future, are under-performing. And with this much of the season already gone, and with only forty games left to go, the concern grows that there may be something fundamentally wrong that will keep them mired in their slump.

First Jose Altuve. He has a .562 OPS. His fWAR rating is -0.2. He is striking out over 21% of the time and looks just plain lost. Jose has had slumps before, but I don’t recall one being this deep, or lasting this long.

Of course, he’s not the only superstar slumping in MLB this year, ask Christian Yellich or Cody Bellinger. It’s a weird season. But some are starting to ask, “is age creeping up on him?” or, “has the cheating scandal affected his mindset?”

It’s painful to admit, but Jose has become a liability at the top of the lineup. How much more leash does he get?

The second liability is the future of the Astros outfield, Kyle Tucker. His BA is stuck at the Mendoza line, his OPS at .586. He has had regular playing time most of this season, so the small sample size explanation for his previous disappointments before this year is losing credibility. With lefty Yordan Alvarez back, and lefties Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick having good seasons, playing time for Tucker looks to be very little from here on out.

2020 was a great chance for Tucker. It looks like a lost opportunity at this point, and leaves the Astros future in the outfield in grave doubt.

Strangely, the best shot for playing time for Tucker is against left-handed pitchers, against whom he is hitting .893 OPS. It appears his weakness is the breaking ball inside from right-handers. If he can fix that he might be Ted after all.

Game time 6:10.

See ya at the thread.