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2021 Series Preview: Houston Astros @ Seattle Mariners

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The Astros (61-39, 1st in AL West) are set to begin a three-game series against the Mariners (54-46, 3rd in AL West) at T-Mobile Park.

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Quick Notes

It’s been a long run since the Houston Astros faced the Seattle Mariners this season. In seven games (two series) during the first month of the campaign, the Astros won four of those games, though they lost two out of three in T-Mobile Park.

Months later, the Mariners are 7 games back from the first place Astros in the AL West, but they are just 1.5 games short of Oakland and the second AL Wild Card, having just taken the last 3 games of a 4 game series with them. They find themselves in the thick of the wild card chase despite having a bunch of injured players such as pitchers Justin Dunn, Justus Sheffield, and James Paxton, along with hitters Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley, and Evan White.

This time, just like in April, you can expect fire and nail-biter games during the three-game series as both teams are living a similar present. Both have a 6-3 record after the All-Star break and, offensively, the Astros have scored 39 runs in the second half while the Mariners have scored 40 times, though Houston has had the best pitching during that span.

Last 10 Games: 6-4 Record, 2 Series Won (vs Angels and Athletics), -8 Run Differential (41 Scored, 49 Allowed)

W/L Splits: 32-21 at home, 22-25 on the road, 36-31 against teams over .500


Offense

The Astros just swept one of the worst offenses in 2021 and, against the Mariners, it doesn’t get any different. Seattle is sharing last place with the Rangers in almost every offensive department in the American League. So if the Astros’ pitchers pitch well, it could be a tough series for manager Scott Servais and his guys.

In the young circuit, they’re 11th in runs scored (411), last in hits (706), 11th in doubles (137), 9th in home runs (124), 13th in strikeouts (956), last in batting average (.218), last in OBP (.218), 14th in SLG (.380), and also 14th in OPS. However, they rank 5th in home runs (26) and 3rd in walks (67) through July.

Notable Players:

  • When you look at the Mariners’ lineup, their best offensive player will rapidly pop up: OF Mitch Haniger. After losing a big portion of 2019 and the entire 2020 season to injuries, Haniger is looking like himself now. He leads the team in hits (99), home runs (25), RBIs (62), runs scored (70), slugging percentage (.520), and OPS (.842).
  • Kyle Seager is hitting .297 (17-for-64) with 10 doubles, two home runs, and 11 ribbies against the Astros since 2020. Along with Haniger, he’s the only Mariner with more than 15 four-baggers in ‘21. Despite averaging .216 this season, he’s a veteran bat the Astros should be careful with.

Pitching

Despite having some key pieces on the injured list, the Mariners still enjoy good pitching. Starting arms such as Yusei Kikuchi, Chris Flexen, and rookie Logan Gilbert have a combined 3.69 ERA across 48 starts (270 23 innings). Their entire pitching staff ranks 8th in ERA (4.41) and 7th in WHIP (1.29) in the American League in 2021.

But for the Mariners, their bullpen is the real deal. Righty Kendall Graveman has been a pleasant surprise for them as he’s become their closer with a 0.84 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP across 32 innings (10 saves). Beyond Graveman, Seattle’s success in terms of bullpen relies also on Paul Sewald, JT Chargois, Erik Swanson, and Drew Steckenrider. Thanks to those arms, the Mariners have the sixth-best bullpen in the AL in ERA (4.02), just above the Astros’ 4.05.

Notable Relievers:

  • Kendall Graveman (RHP, 0.84 ERA, 32 IP, 32 Ks) is no longer a starter and has found success this season as the Mariners’ closer. He’s surrendered 4.2 hits and 2.0 walks per nine, also with a .140 BAA and a .429 opponent OPS. The good thing about him is that, as a former starting pitcher, he can go multiple innings, though he’s gone for more than one frame just once since May 16.
  • Drew Steckenrider (RHP, 2.08 ERA, 39 IP, 41 Ks) did not play in the majors in 2020, but in 2021, he’s been a dominant force for Seattle. He’s allowed only 26 hits and nine earned runs. Steckenrider’s been pretty effective against left-handed hitters, who only average .130 with only one extra-base hit off him.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Luis García (RHP, 7-5, 2.86 ERA, 105 Ks) vs Darren McCaughan (RHP, 0-0, 1.80 ERA, 0 Ks)

McCaughan made his MLB debut on July 21 with five innings against the Rockies. He didn’t allow a hit and didn’t strike out anyone, but surrendered three walks and one earned run. The 25-year-old doesn’t get a lot of punchouts, but as opposed to what he did vs Colorado, he won’t give up many bases on balls.

Game 2: Lance McCullers Jr. (RHP, 7-2, 3.04 ERA, 107 Ks) vs Chris Flexen (RHP, 9-4, 3.35 ERA, 66 Ks)

Flexen pitches to contact. He’s striking out 5.7 hitters per nine in 2021, but he’s only giving up 1.9 walks and 0.8 home runs per nine. With four pitches (four-seamer, cutter, changeup, curveball), he's found success in 2021. Flexen already faced the Astros this season, going six innings and conceding 10 hits and one run, with no walks and three strikeouts.

Game 3: Jake Odorizzi (RHP, 3-5, 4.23 ERA, 51 Ks) vs Yusei Kikuchi (LHP, 6-5, 3.95 ERA, 117 Ks)

The Mariners won the two games Kikuchi started in April vs the Astros. In both outings, the All-Star went seven frames, but with a different outcome. On April 16, he allowed five runs, but then surrendered one hit and zero runs on April 29. Kikuchi has been struck hard lately: 23 hits, 15 earned runs in his last three starts (16 innings).


For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, July 26th @ 9:10 pm CT

Game 2: Tuesday, July 27th @ 9:10 pm CT

Game 3: Wednesday July 28th @ 2:40 pm CT

Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM / 94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010, KTHR 740 AM / 99.1 FM HD-2 Mariners - 710 ESPN

Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW Mariners - ROOTNW


Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (33 votes)
  • 59%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (133 votes)
  • 19%
    Mariners Win 2-1
    (43 votes)
  • 6%
    Mariners Sweep 3-0
    (15 votes)
224 votes total Vote Now