As the end of this very weird mini-season approaches, you might think we'd dread a visit from the Houston Astros. But baseball's a funny game and things do not always follow the script. (I mean, see this whole year, in and out of baseball.) Houston is not, as it turns out, the powerhouse club it was predicted to be when the season started; at only one game over .500, the 'Stros are four games up on the Mariners with seven games left to go. Should Seattle pull an upset and sweep these three games, Houston will have a problem.
Of course, that's just a dream scenario; Seattle has won just one of seven so far against the Astros and a Mariner sweep of Houston hasn't happened since August of 2018, and the Astros still won the season series that year on their way to a division title. So don't hold your breath, especially as the M's have really faded lately. What the Mariners do have in their favor is that they're finally back home for the final time this year. Seattle is over .500 at home while Houston is 11 games under on the road.
The previously scary Astro lineup has fallen to Earth; no regular is approaching a .300 batting average except Michael Brantley, who is Houston's one steady hitter. George Springer and Kyle Tucker do have nice home run and RBI totals, respectively, but their combined on-base mark is an anemic .318. These Astros can be beat.
Houston's scheduled starting pitchers are Lance McCullers, Framber Valdez, and Zack Greinke. McCullers is 1-0 in two starts vs. Seattle and is coming off a terrific start against the Rangers, seven shutout innings (two hits, no walks) that gave him a no-decision. Valdez defeated the M's in his one start against them (August 14th) with six strong innings. Greinke faced the M's in the third game of the year, but wasn't season-ready yet and only went three and a third. He's been his usual self since, more or less (though the Dodgers roughed him up a little), but without much support behind him Houston's just 4-7 in his starts.
The M's have Marco Gonzales going against McCullers in the opener. That's Seattle's best chance to make a statement; Marco did lose to the Astros on opening day, but that was then and it was as much his manager's fault as anyone else's. Since then, Marco is 6-1, 3.27 ERA, and the most important thing when playing Houston, just four walks. After that it gets a bit dicey, with rookies Ljay Newsome and Nick Margevicius slated to take the mound in the second and third games. Both of them got beat up pretty good in their last two starts, both against the Giants, and are in serious need of a confidence-booster. And we all know what happens when the bullpen gets involved.
That's one area in which the Astros still shine, relief pitching. The Houston ’pen doesn't have great numbers collectively—14 losses, 4.36 ERA, WHIP over 1.5—but the guys that are there now have done quite well, excepting Josh James (7.71 ERA) and Cy Sneed (6.46). Best to score on the starters; if any of these games turn in to a battle of the bullpens, well, you know.
Who’s Hot & Not
Last ten games
.317/.333/.634, 6 HR, 7 RBI
.125/.182/.125, 10 Ks
.133/.235/.267, 11 Ks
Last 3 series vs. Seattle
|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|
|9/25/19||HOU 3, SEA 0|
|9/24/19||HOU 3, SEA 0|
Dusty Baker: Not the easiest gig in the world, taking over the team the whole league hates for their cheating ways, but Baker is respected around the game and has plenty of experience to bring to bear, whether dealing with players or media. The ex-outfielder has nine playoff appearances as a manager, three with San Francisco, one with the Cubs, three with Cincinnati, and two with Washington, and he now has a squad chock full of premier talent.
If there's a knock on Baker it's his use of pitchers, or perhaps overuse of pitchers; that doesn't figure to be an issue this year with the short season and, rushed preseason rampup, and extra arms in the bullpen.
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.