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2021 Series Preview: Houston Astros @ Seattle Mariners

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The Astros (6-6, 3rd in AL West) limp back out to the West Coast for three games against the Mariners (8-5, 1st in AL West)

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

Mariners Quick Notes

The Narrative

The Mariners are a team that are currently in the midst of both a rebuild and a youth movement after years of wandering just outside the pearly gates of October baseball. While there have been flashes of dominance in recent seasons, Seattle has struggled with being able to maintain momentum through an entire 162-game season and usually falls out of contention by mid to late summer.

For those two reasons, the Mariners are not expected to do much this season other than further groom their young studs and wait for relevance once again. Still, the M’s have managed to stay relevant in the young 2021 season, vaulting to the top of the West thanks to steadily grinding out wins late in games.

The Mariners return to T-Mobile Park after taking 3 of 4 from the Baltimore Orioles, a series that was settled with two days of doubleheaders thanks to rain delays. This included a sweep of both games yesterday. The Astros are probably hoping that this recent set of doubleheaders will tire out Seattle and give them a leg up on the upcoming series.

Even though they are defined by their youth, the Mariners have shown resilience and played clutch late in games. Late game heroics are becoming something of a calling card for this team as Seattle has already won three extra inning games in as many tries and have won four games after taking the lead in their final AB.

They’ve also managed to jump out to a good start in spite of a couple of injuries that could have slowed them down. James Paxton, who re-signed with the Mariners this past offseason, only pitched an inning before he left his first game of 2021 with an apparent injury. It was later announced that he would undergo Tommy John surgery and that his season was over.

But there was bad news even before the season started thanks to reigning AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis going on the IL with a knee injury in late March. He is expected to rejoin the team very soon, which should bode well for the M’s offense, but it looks like he will miss the series against the Astros.

The Offense

Kyle Lewis slotting back into the offense bodes well because, for the most part, Seattle’s offense has had a fairly middle of the road performance so far, with a team slash line of .231/.309/.392. There’s no category where their offense has really excelled in comparison to the rest of the league, but at the same time they’re holding steady and are competent enough as a unit.

Mitch Haniger has exploded out of the gate for Seattle and is probably the biggest threat in their lineup heading into this series. Haniger is slashing .321/.333/.623 with 4 home runs and 4 doubles in 13 games this season. He also is tied for team lead with 10 RBI.

He shares that tie with Kyle Seager, who remains a steadfast Mariner that has manned the 3B side of their infield since his 2011 debut. Seager has also gotten off to a great start this season and, though his numbers aren’t as gaudy as Haniger’s, has been delivering clutch AB’s for Seattle.

Out of the rest of Seattle’s lineup, José Marmolejos and Ty France have the best offensive stats. Marmolejos’ numbers are definitely in the small sample size category as he has played in only 9 of the M’s 13 games this season, and is only sporting 21 AB’s. He has already popped a couple of homers and doubles in that time though, so there is some power there. Meanwhile, France has been a steady presence at the plate and is getting on base at a .386 clip.

The rest of the offense kind of takes a nose dive after that. Most of their victories have come thanks to pitching, though it hasn’t been 100% smooth sailing the entire time.

The Bullpen

The Mariners’ bullpen staff, similar to the offense, lands in about the middle of the league when it comes to effectiveness. As a group they have a 3.86 ERA and have managed to convert 5 of 8 save opportunities. The M’s bullpen was one of the worst in the league last season, so for them to open as well as they have must feel like a boon in the Pacific Northwest.

Rafael Montero is Seattle’s closer after they brought him over from the Rangers during the offseason. Montero hasn’t exactly been lights out after blowing 3 of his 5 save opportunities this season. He gave up a single run in each of those blown saves, but has been solid otherwise, if unfortunate.

Kendall Gravemen and Keynan Middleton also have 2 saves each, partially thanks to each of them working in one of the four doubleheader games Seattle played this week. Gravemen has been figuring into the late-inning hierarchy for the Mariners this year, so it’s not a surprise he’s picked up a couple of saves. He’s also the only Seattle reliever who hast yet to give up a run.

Expect to see Middleton and Drew Steckenrider in the mix for high leverage this series as well. Steckenrider has the worst stats of all the high leverage guys for the M’s, but that’s mostly due to a poor performance his first time out of the gate. And, to be fair, he’s only had 4.2 IP in 2021.

Will Vest, who made his debut this season, has seen the most work out of the bullpen for the Mariners this year. Vest has done pretty well in that time, giving up just a single earned run in 8.1 IP. Still, things have been a little wobbly for him, as he has also walked 4 batters and given up 4 hits in those frames.

The Starters

Yusei Kikuchi (LHP, 0-0, 3.75 ERA, 16K’s) will open the series against the Astros and will try to do something he hasn’t done before and finally have a good start against them. Kikuchi owns a 6.36 ERA in five starts against Houston since 2019. He’s coming off of two consecutive quality starts, his most recent one against Minnesota where he went 6 innings and gave up 2 runs while striking out 6.

Chris Flexen (RHP, 1-0, 4.50 ERA, 11 K’s) is the starter for the second game and is fresh off of a beating at the hands of the Twins. He surrendered 5 earned runs in just 5 innings during that one, though it did come after he twirled 5 shutout innings during his first start. This is Flexen’s first start against Houston since 2017.

The Mariners have yet to announce who will start the third game but that spot should belong to Justus Sheffield (LHP, 0-1, 4.91 ERA, 10 K’s), so I’ll cover him. Sheffield generated a lot of buzz as one of Seattle’s young guns last season, establishing himself quite well in the rotation during that time. He hasn’t looked quite so good this season, giving up 8 runs, 6 earned, in 11 innings so far. Still, his last start was much better than his first after he went 6 innings deep while giving up just 2 runs.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, April 16th @ 9:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2 / Mariners - 710 ESPN
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW+ / Mariners - ROOTNW / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Game 2: Saturday, April 17th @ 8:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2 / Mariners - 710 ESPN
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW+ / Mariners - ROOTNW

Game 3: Sunday, April 18th @ 3:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010 / Mariners - 710 ESPN
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Mariners - ROOTNW / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (14 votes)
  • 33%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (49 votes)
  • 39%
    Mariners Win 2-1
    (58 votes)
  • 17%
    Mariners Sweep 3-0
    (25 votes)
146 votes total Vote Now