The timing of the Astros' first 2021 visit to Seattle couldn't be better. As the Trash-Can-Bangers arrive for their three-game set with the Mariners, they are freshly without key players José Altuve, Alex Bregman, Martín Maldonado, and Yordan Alvarez, as well as bench player Robel García. All five are on the injured list due to COVID protocols and are quarantined in Houston. Add the absence of ace pitcher Justin Verlander (recovering from Tommy John surgery), and you've got the least intimidating Houston team in years, at least for the next week or two.
Which isn't to say the Astros will be pushovers. Even without all those guys, this is still a solid team. Shortstop Carlos Correa, first baseman Yuri Gurriel, and left fielder Michael Brantley are all hitting the cover off the ball, and though the numbers haven't been great in the early going, the pitching staff still features quality arms in the scheduled starters for this series, José Urquidy, Zack Greinke, and Jake Odorizzi. The M's still have their work cut out for them, even though last year was the first time since 2017 that the ’Stros didn't finish atop the heap in the American League West. Thanks to the expanded playoff format of 2020 they did make the postseason despite being two games under .500, advancing as far as Game 7 of the ALCS before falling to Tampa Bay, but Houston's decline from 2019 to ’20 was stark—in ’19, the Astros were first in the league in batting average, OBP, slugging, batter walks, fewest runs allowed, fewest hits allowed, and fewest pitcher walks. Last year they were tenth in the AL in batting, eleventh in on-base, ninth in slugging, and worst in batter strikeouts while firmly in the middle of the pack in most pitching categories. The Mariners also handled the Astros a tad better last year, only losing to them seven times out of ten after going 1-18 against them in 2019.
Missing from Houston's recent reign of AL West supremacy is center fielder George Springer—he left as a free agent and now patrols the outfield for the Blue Jays. Also gone is outfielder Josh Reddick (signed to a minors deal by the Diamondbacks). Otherwise, the 2020 team remains basically intact.
Seattle will start Yusei Kikuchi, Chris Flexen, and Justus Sheffield in these three games; Kikuchi is 0-2 in his career against Houston, Flexen is 0-1 from a single appearance against them in 2017 as a New York Met, and Sheffield has no record in one start vs. Houston last year (6 innings, 1 ER).
|HOU vs. KIKUCHI||AB||H||HR||RBI||BB||K||AVG||OBP||SLG|
|HOU vs. FLEXEN||AB||H||HR||RBI||BB||K||AVG||OBP||SLG|
|HOU vs. SHEFFIELD||AB||H||HR||RBI||BB||K||AVG||OBP||SLG|
|SEA vs. Urquidy||AB||H||HR||RBI||BB||K||AVG||OBP||SLG|
|SEA vs. GREINKE||AB||H||HR||RBI||BB||K||AVG||OBP||SLG|
|SEA vs. ODORIZZI||AB||H||HR||RBI||BB||K||AVG||OBP||SLG|
|vs. AL West||6-3|
Who’s Hot & Not
Last ten games
400/.512/.514, 0 HR, 4 RBI
.325/.357/.625, 3 HR, 6 RBI
.324/.361/.676, 2 HR, 4 RBI
Last 3 series vs. Seattle
|9/23/20||SEA 3, HOU 2|
|9/22/20||HOU 6, SEA 1|
|9/21/20||SEA 6, HOU 1|
|8/16/20||HOU 3, SEA 2|
|8/15/20||HOU 2, SEA 1|
|8/14/20||HOU 11, SEA 1|
|7/27/20||HOU 8, SEA 5|
|7/26/20||SEA 7, HOU 6|
|7/25/20||HOU 7, SEA 2|
|7/24/20||HOU 8, SEA 2|
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.
Nobody: None of the current Houston players or coaches have played for the M's.
|Houston Astros AL||(2013 - present)|
|League Champions:||2005, 2019|
|Division Titles:||1980, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2018|
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.