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Series beginning
07/26/2021

Houston Astros

Remember when the Astros first moved to the American League and they were terrible? Seems like forever ago. In their nine seasons playing in the AL West, Houston's club has morphed from a .315 winning percentage in 2013 to a .660 rate in 2019 and seen the postseason five times. It'd be annoying even if they hadn't been caught cheating and gotten away with it scot-free.

Well, this year's version is following the pattern, sitting in first place with 61 wins as this three-game series gets underway. The Astros are first in the league in batting average, first in runs scored, first in OBP, first in hits. Annoying. First baseman Yuli Gurriel and outfielder Michael Brantley lead Houston's offensive charge, closely followed by middle infielders José Altuve and Carlos Correa, but everyone in the Astros' regular lineup is formidable. Even .173-hitting catcher Martín Maldonado has been something of a Mariner-killer; last season Maldonado was 9-for-28 and drove in 12 runs against the M's in nine games. Even without help from trash-can-banging confederates, it seems, the Astros can hit.

They're no slouches on the mound either, ranking second in the league in earned run average at this writing; the starting rotation's statistically worst member is former Minnesota Twin Jake Odorizzi, who owns a 4.23 ERA in a dozen starts. All-Star closer Ryan Pressly (1.50 ERA, 18 saves, 7 walks to 54 Ks) headlines a bullpen with strengths and weaknesses; if the Astros have a vulnerable area, middle relief is it, with Bryan Abreu, Brooks Raley, Brandon Bielak—pretty much any reliever whose name starts with "B"—along with Joe Smith holding ERAs north of 4.00 and/or WHIP figures above 1.500.

The scheduled starters for these three games are Luis García, Lance McCullers Jr., and Odorizzi. Rookie García faced the M's back on April 29th and took the loss, but was quite good in the 1-0 Mariner victory, allowing one run on three hits in five innings. McCullers has made three impressive starts vs. Seattle this year, going 1-1 with an ERA under 2.00. As for Odorizzi, the Mariners tagged him for four runs in 413 innings on their way to a 7-2 triumph in his only start against them this year.

Splits

Last ten 7-3
Away 27-19
vs. LHP 24-17
vs. RHP 37-22
One-run games 12-11
vs. AL West 28-13
vs. Mariners 4-3

Who’s Hot & Not

Last ten games

Yuli Gurriel
.313/.378/.406, 3 2B, 5 RBI

Kyle Tucker
.333/.368/.722, 4 HR, 10 RBI

Michael Brantley
.344/.447/.500, 3 XBH, 4 RBI

Yordan Alvarez
.167/.225/.361, 13 Ks

Myles Straw
.217/.280/.261, 7 Ks

Carlos Correa
.059/.132/0.88, 15 Ks

Last 3 series vs. Seattle

4/29/21 SEA 1, HOU 0
4/28/21 HOU 7, SEA 5
4/27/21 HOU 2, SEA 0
4/26/21 HOU 5, SEA 2
4/18/21 SEA 7, HOU 2
4/17/21 HOU 1, SEA 0
4/16/21 SEA 6, HOU 5
9/23/20 SEA 3, HOU 2
9/22/20 HOU 6, SEA 1
9/21/20 SEA 6, HOU 1

Manager

baker

Dusty Baker: It wasn't the easiest of gigs, taking over a team that the league reviles because of its cheating ways, but Baker is respected all over baseball and has made it work so far; his reputation for integrity and success helped burnish the Astros' tarnished image. He brought the ’Stros to within one game of the World Series last year thanks to the expanded playoff format of the 2020 mini-season and hopes to lead Houston back to a first-place finish.

That reputation of his might be taking a hit, though. Since no fans were allowed into games last year, this season is the first opportunity for crowds to voice their outrage to the Astros in person since the cheating scandal came to light. Fans in Anaheim and Oakland jumped at the chance to be heard and booed, heckled, and even tossed a trash can onto the warning track in right field to mock the Astros' method of communication when stealing signs. Baker was displeased and criticized the California crowds. "How many in the stands have never done anything wrong in their life?" Baker said. "We paid the price for it. How many people have not cheated on a test or whatever at some point in time?" Two issues there—one, Baker wasn't part of the cheating scandal, so "we" is a bit weird, and "paid the price"? Really? Seems to most of us that the Astros got away with no serous repercussions. Their manager and GM were fired, but that manager is back at the helm of another team now. Houston lost a couple of draft picks. That was the price they paid. So all Baker's complaints are going to do is rile up even more animosity when the Astros make the rounds this season. "How many times can you say you’re sorry?" Baker said. "That’s all you can do." Well, let's hear some apologies then. Real ones, public ones, from the players and executives involved, not the lame CYA platitudes that they were forced into by being found out.

Familiar Face

Nobody: None of the current Houston players or coaches have played for the M's.

Franchise History

Houston Astros AL(2013 - present)
 
World Champions:2017
League Champions:2005, 2019
Division Titles:1980, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2018

— Notes —

Michael Brantley: Though no current Astros have ever played for the Mariners, Brantley's dad did. Mickey Brantley logged 302 games as a Seattle outfielder from 1986-1989; Michael was born in Bellevue during the 1987 season.

José Altuve: The shortest player in the Major Leagues at just under five-foot-six, Altuve has inspired the measurement unit known as OSLA, or Official Standard Listed Altuves. For reference, the height of the outfield wall at T-Mobile Park = 1.48 OSLA; distance between Major League bases = 16.614 OSLA;  altitude of Mt. Rainier = 2,660.3 OSLA; distance from Earth to the moon = 232,858,039.5 OSLA. You can find a feet-to-OSLA converter online at www.howmanyaltuves.com.

Zack Greinke: One of the smartest pitchers in the big leagues, Greinke is also famous (or infamous) for his droll sense of humor. Once while with the Royals, Greinke told a slumping teammate, Alex Gordon, to come look at something in the video room to help Gordon out of his funk. Greinke showed Gordon a clip of Greinke—one of the best-hitting pitchers in MLB—belting a home run against the Diamondbacks. "Do more of that," was Greinke's advice.

Greinke's ability with the bat is a source of pride and he's voiced disappointment about not being able to bat in the American League. As a National Leaguer Greinke finished the 2013, ’15, ’18, and ’19 seasons with a higher batting average than opposing batters had against him (in ’13 he had the second-best batting average on the Dodger team at .328). Asked if Greinke the batter could hit Greinke the pitcher, he said "I could hit me if someone were on base. It wouldn’t be easy, but I could do it. If no one were on base, I wouldn’t care as much, so I could get me out."

Lance McCullers Jr.: Another second-generation Major Leaguer—Lance Senior pitched for seven years in the bigs, mostly with San Diego—McCullers is a champion of animal rights and established the Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation to advocate for stray and homeless animals across the country. The foundation supports Houston Pets Alive, working to support no-kill shelters with a goal of making Houston a "no-kill city."