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Series beginning
08/30/2021

Houston Astros

Believe it or not, it's been a whole week since we've seen the Astros! Good grief, the schedule this year. Anyway, yes, it's the Astros again, and yes, they're still really good. Last time around, back in Houston, they cleaned the Mariners' clocks in two out of three contests, outscoring the M's 30-10 over the course of the series. Houston remains the best offensive team in the league by several measures and they're near the top in terms of pitching. It's going to be a tough series.

If there's a positive to point to as the series begins, it's that the Astros will start Luis García in the opening game; the M's have seen García twice this season and beaten him both times, scoring a combined seven runs over the 923 innings he's been on the hill. Starters for Tuesday and Wednesday, however, are Lance McCullers Jr. and Jake Odorizzi, who have each won two previous starts against Seattle this year and who both have a lot of experience pitching to the M's; McCullers has had particular success throughout his career, with a 9-3 record and 2.93 ERA in 16 career starts vs. Seattle. If and when the M's get past the starters, the Houston bullpen is no cakewalk—in addition to closer Ryan Pressly and his 21 saves, power arms belong to Ryne Stanek, Crisitan Javier, and our old friend Kendall Graveman, who has pitched to a 1.50 ERA since he was traded to the Astros (for Abraham Toro).

The Astros' formidable lineup has no real weak spots. Even catcher Martín Maldonado, a .177 batter, has been known to go to town on the Mariners. Aside from whoever is catching any given day, no Houston regular is batting under .270 and the worst on-base mark is right fielder Kyle Tucker's .337. Four Astros have 20 or more homers, led by Yordan Alvarez's 28.

Seattle will start Chris Flexen, Yusei Kikuchi, and Logan Gilbert against the Houston juggernaut. The Astros have hit .404 vs. Flexen this season (two starts), .364 vs. Gilbert (one start). Kikuchi has held them to a .247 mark, but is still 1-2 against them in four starts.

Splits

Last ten 7-3
Away 36-28
vs. LHP 30-23
vs. RHP 47-30
One-run games 14-14
vs. AL West 36-17
vs. Mariners 8-5

Who’s Hot & Not

Last ten games

Yuli Gurriel
.310/.383/.476, 5 XBH, 4 RBI

Carlos Correa
.324/.444/.514, 4 XBH, 5 RBI

Kyle Tucker
.344/.364/.531, 3 XBH, 4 RBI

Martín Maldonado
.160/.323/.400, 7 Ks

Michael Brantley
.222/.300/.222

Last 3 series vs. Seattle

8/22/21 SEA 6, HOU 3
8/21/21 HOU 15, SEA 1
8/20/21 HOU 12, SEA 3
7/28/21 HOU 11, SEA 4
7/27/21 HOU 8, SEA 6
7/26/21 SEA 11, HOU 8
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

Manager

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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

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Kendall Graveman: It was not a popular move when the Mariners' traded The Undertaker to their division rivals last month, but it did make sense. Graveman is on a one-year deal and was at his peak in terms of trade value, and the M's got a solid young switch-hitting infielder in return in Abraham Toro. Still, it won't be pleasant should Graveman take the mound against his old mates in this series. Since the deal, he's continued his exceptional campaign, allowing just two runs over 12 innings as an Astro, striking out 14 batters along the way. One of the two times he was scored upon it was against the M's back in Houston; Seattle plated one run on two hits in an inning against Graveman August 22nd, pushing his season ERA above 1.00 for the first time since July 4th. 

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."