It's been a month since the Mariners faced the Houston Astros, a month that was kinder to Houston's baseball fortunes than to Seattle's. The Astros have gone 17-10 since sweeping the M's August 2nd through 4th; the Mariners are 11-15 in that span, which, given the rest of the season, isn't all that bad but includes sets against bottom-feeding teams like Detroit and Toronto.
The Astros are no bottom-feeders. They hold the third-best record in the Majors, one game worse than the Yankees and half a game worse than the Dodgers, 90-game winners by Labor Day. They've also wiped the floor with the Mariners already this season, winning 12 of 13 games thus far. The M's do catch a little bit of a break in catching the Astros while a couple of big bats are on the shelf—both shortstop Carlos Correa and outfielder George Springer are out of action, Correa on the injured list with a back issue and Springer day-to-day due to head trauma suffered last Tuesday night in a collision with the center field wall at Milwaukee's Miller Park. Even without those two superstars, though, Houston's lineup is formidable: 2B José Altuve, 1B Yuri Gurriel, 3B Alex Bregman, and rookie OF/DH Yordan Alvarez each have .900+ OPS numbers.
Pitching-wise, Houston's rotation is as good as any team in history's (apologies to the '71 Orioles), but the M's won't have to face one of their top arms in Zack Greinke. Small consolation, as they will have to face Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, along with ex-Mariner Wade Miley and Framber Valdez. The Houston bullpen has struggled a bit lately, with Ryan Pressly out with injury and closer Robero Osuna pitching to a 5.60 ERA since July 12th. Miley will go Thursday night, and it will be his fifth start against Seattle already this year; he's 1-0 with three no-decisions, a 4.05 ERA and averaging just five innings per game. Valdez has pitched against the M's as a reliever this season (4 innings, no runs); this will be his first start against Seattle and eighth overall. Verlander has also started four vs. Seattle so far, he's 2-0 with a 3.47 ERA and 33 Ks in those games; he's also coming off of his third career no-hitter, pitched September 1st against the Blue Jays. Cole is 2-0 in two starts, including a dominating performance June 30th in Houston that saw him strikeout ten Mariners in seven innings of work. They'll be opposed by Marco Gonzales, who has faced Houston three times this year and been humbled (0-2, 9 ER in 151⁄3 IP); Tommy Milone, who has done well in three games vs. Houston in relief as a "headliner" (1.76 ERA, 10 Ks in 151⁄3 IP); Yusei Kikuchi, who's been battered in two starts against the 'Stros (0-1, 9.00 ERA, 4 HR in 9 IP); and rookie Justus Sheffield, who has never seen the Astros.
Mariners vs. Justin Verlander (CAREER)
Mariners vs. Gerrit Cole (CAREER)
Astros vs. Yusei Kikuchi (CAREER)
Astros vs. Justus Sheffield (CAREER)
|vs. AL West||42-15|
Who’s Hot & Not
Last 10 games
.475/.522/.750, 7 XBH, 10 RBI
.314/.415/.600, 6 XBH, 8 RBI
.313/.389/.438, 3 XBH, 8 RBI
.147/.256/.235, 1 HR, 2 RBI
.167/.200/.167, 0 XBH, 3 RBI, 11 K
Last 3 series vs. Seattle
|8/4/19||HOU 3, SEA 1|
|8/3/19||HOU 9, SEA 0|
|8/2/19||HOU 10, SEA 2|
|6/30/19||HOU 6, SEA 1|
|6/29/19||HOU 6, SEA 5|
|6/28/19||HOU 2, SEA 1|
|6/6/19||HOU 8, SEA 7|
|6/5/19||SEA 14, HOU 1|
|6/4/19||HOU 11, SEA 5|
|6/3/19||HOU 4, SEA 2|
A.J. Hinch: In four years managing the Astros, Hinch has taken them to the postseason three times and will likely do it again this year. Lucky for him, he was brought in at the end of the club's tear-everything-down rebuild project; he arrived at the same time Carlos Correa broke into the bigs, and by 2016 Bregman had joined them and the offensive nucleus was ready for prime time.
Hinch knows his club is a virtual lock to win the division, but he wants more than that. "We want the best record," Hinch said. "We want home-field [in the postseason]." So look for him and the Astros to keep fighting for every win, even in otherwise meaningless games.
Wade Miley: The journeyman southpaw played the first half of 2016 with Seattle before being traded to Baltimore for fellow pitcher Ariel Miranda in mid-season. Miley went 7-8 with a 4.98 ERA for the M's and wasn't really missed afterward. His subsequent year-and-a-half in Baltimore was even worse, but last year as a Milwaukee Brewer he found his way, going 5-2 with a sparkling 2.57 ERA despite a WHIP over 1.2. He threw 142⁄3 innings in the postseason last year, allowing just two runs with a WHIP under 1. This year he's been a solid contributor for Houston, 13-4 with a 3.06 ERA; he has given up a lot of homers (21), but then, most pitchers have seen their HRs allowed go up this year.
|Houston Astros AL||(2013 - present)|
|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.