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2022 Series Preview 3: Houston Astros @ Seattle Mariners

The Astros (4-2, 1st in AL West) close out their season-opening road trip with three in the Emerald City against the Mariners (3-4, t-3rd in AL West)

MLB: Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Narrative

The Mariners came into the 2022 season with a lot of hype that this would finally be the year that they break the curse and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2001. Not only that, but they were also the sexy pick to be the team that would dethrone Houston as the AL West representatives.

That sentiment is predicated on the M’s improved pitching, anchored by the signing of free agent Robbie Ray, and an offense that was expected to take a big step forward this season and features a number of up-and-coming young players. They also picked up 2B Adam Frazier to help bolster said offense and bring a steady veteran presence to the locker room.

Unfortunately for Seattle, things have not played out all that well in the still-early 2022 season. The Mariners won their first two games out of the gate and then promptly dropped the next four and their second series of the season to the White Sox. A big part of that series loss came from an implosion of shiny new starter Robbie Ray, who just couldn’t find his stuff in his second start.

Still, as will be the case for the majority of April, it’s way too early to draw any conclusions from that. The Mariners are an improved quantity and it’s not like they were facing off against lightweights to start the season. They’ll continue to test their mettle as they take on the Astros, their third straight series opponent that is expected to compete for a playoff spot.


The Offense

The Mariners’ offense has been a little slow out of the gate. That’s not to say that there haven’t been bright spots in the early going, but there really haven’t been too much stand out performances when looked at across the course of their first two series.

The M’s currently sit 23rd in the league with a collective .630 OPS. They are more than capable of taking walks though, with 31 so far this year (t-4th in MLB) and will swipe a bag or two when they get on.

Notable Players

J.P. Crawford: Over the course of their first seven games, one player has really stood out amongst the M’s corps of young players: J.P. Crawford. Currently slashing .417/.500/.542, Crawford has 3 doubles, 4 walks, a stolen base, and has only struck out once across 24 AB’s. This is welcome news for the Mariners, who signed the young Crawford to a 5-year extension this past offseason, locking him up through 2026.

Mitch Haniger: Haniger has been the biggest power threat so far for the M’s, slapping 4 extra base hits and leading the team with 3 home runs. However, his problem has been actually making contact. Those four extra base hits are the only hits he’s been able to get across 29 AB’s and he is currently slashing .138/.167/.483

Julio Rodriguez: Rodriguez is considered the No. 9 prospect in all of baseball and made the Mariners out of Spring Training with a lot of hype surrounding him. However, he hasn’t really performed the way one would hope, slashing a paltry .095/.174/.143 and leading the team with 12 strikeouts. Obviously it’s way too early to call him a bust, but Rodriguez is expected to be a big part of Seattle’s future and his returns have been less than encouraging in the early going.


The Pitching

The Mariners’ bullpen was a strength for them last season and looks to remain so after they brought back a number of the same pieces. The team usually doesn’t designate a closer or setup guy, instead preferring to play the matchups, which works just fine for a team with a number of good options like they have.

To that effect three different relievers have been deployed in save opportunities for Seattle so far this season: Drew Steckenrider, Diego Castillo, and Andres Munoz. Paul Sewald is also a candidate for high leverage work, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Astros see him late in a game this series. Munoz is the only player to give up the save so far but he does have a 101 MPH fastball, which will usually play up in the backend of the bullpen.

Also worth mentioning that old friend and current nemesis Ken Giles is on the Mariners’ roster, but he is also on the IL with a tendon issue in his pitching hand. If Giles can return to his previous form (his good one I mean for all the wiseacres in the comments section) he’ll add yet another weapon to an already potent bullpen.


Starter Matchups

Game 1: Jake Odorizzi (RHP, 0-0, 4.50 ERA, 2 K’s) vs Marco Gonzalez (0-1, 9.00 ERA, 1 K)

Marco Gonzalez’s first start of the season did not go according to plan for the 8-year veteran, who only managed a 2-inning start before getting lifted. The only thing keeping his stats from looking even worse was a 2-out error that made 4 of the 6 runs he surrendered against the Twins unearned. Gonzalez has been a steady presence in the Mariners’ rotation for years now, averaging a 4.00 ERA in the 3 full length seasons he’s played for them, so I wouldn’t take one bad start to heart if I were a Mariners fan.

Game 2: Justin Verlander (RHP, 0-1, 1.80 ERA, 7 K’s) vs Chris Flexen (RHP, 0.1, 6.23 ERA, 3 K’s)

Chris Flexen’s first start of the season was just as uncharacteristic as Marco Gonzalez’s as the young starter gave up 3 runs and 3 walks in just 4.1 innings of work. But I wouldn’t expect too much more of the same after Flexen’s breakout 2021, which saw him pitching to a 3.61 ERA across 179.2 innings. However, his Spring Training numbers were also pretty ugly (13 runs in 16 innings), so maybe this is what he is for the foreseeable future.

Game 3: José Urquidy (RHP, 1-0, 1.80 ERA, 2 K’s) vs Matt Brash (RHP, 0-1, 3.38 ERA, 6 K’s)

Matt Brash will come into this game fresh off his MLB debut where he delivered exactly what the Mariners were hoping for from their No. 6 prospect. Though he ultimately took the loss, that came after 5.1 innings of 2-run ball with 6 strikeouts and just 1 walk. The fact that that line came against the White Sox, expected to be the cream of the AL Central, is also an encouraging sign for his young career.


For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, April 15th @ 8:42 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2, TUDN 93.3/KLAT 1010 / Mariners - KIRO 710
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Mariners - ROOTNW

Game 2: Friday, April 16th @ 8:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2, TUDN 93.3/KLAT 1010 / Mariners - KIRO 710
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Mariners - ROOTNW

Game 3: Sunday, April 17th @ 3:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, TUDN 93.3/KLAT 1010 / Mariners - KIRO 710
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Mariners - ROOTNW / MLB Network (out-of-market only)


Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (14 votes)
  • 71%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (113 votes)
  • 16%
    Mariners Win 2-1
    (26 votes)
  • 3%
    Mariners Sweep 3-0
    (6 votes)
159 votes total Vote Now