Astros embarrass Mariners in 4-game sweep
Photo: ATT-TV screencap
Michael Brantley homers off a Matt Wisler meatball to cap an 11-9 win for Houston after the M's led 7-0
September 8, 2019
Nobody expected much. It was already a mismatch on paper, with Houston sporting one of the best records in baseball as they approach 100 wins yet again, Seattle flailing along in last place on their way to 100 losses. The Astros were 12-1 against the Mariners in the season series. They had Cy Young favorites Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole scheduled over the weekend. But, you know, it's baseball in the big leagues, upsets happen.
Houston not only won all four games in this series, they did it emphatically, definitively, declaring to the baseball world, "WE ARE THE HOUSTON ASTROS AND WE ARE NOT TO BE MESSED WITH. AND THE SEATTLE MARINERS ARE OUR B**CH."
You wouldn't guess this from the scores, at least those of the first three games: 11-9, 7-4, and 2-1.
Thursday night looked like it was actually going to go Seattle's way at first, with the M's jumping out to a 7-0 lead after knocking Astro starter Wade Miley out of the game after just six batters, all of whom reached base and five of whom scored. Plus, M's ace Marco Gonzales was on the hill for Seattle. The Mariners were going to steal this one. Except, no. Taking a big lead on the Astros just makes them mad, and they answered back, little by little, and by the end of eight frames Houston had tied it at 8-8. And they did it without two of their stars, Carlos Correa and George Springer, both out with injuries. It would stay tied after nine and extra innings ensued, with Seattle taking a 9-8 lead in the 12th on a home run by Kyle Seager. But Houston would get one in the bottom of the inning on a Kyle Tucker RBI single off of reliever Zac Grotz, pitching his second inning. On to the 13th, when Astro reliever Josh James, also pitching his second frame, struck out the side of Seattle rookies—Ryan Court, Jake Fraley, and Braden Bishop—1-2-3. Mariner manager Scott Servais then turned to Matt Wisler out of the bullpen, the eighth reliever used in the game. Wisler would face just three batters, walk one, and serve up a game-winning homer to another (Michael Brantley) to end the brutal defeat. Bright spots were Seager's two home runs; Austin Nola's 3-for-6, five RBI performance; a three-batter, three-strikeout inning from reliever Dan Altavilla; and multi-hit efforts from Dee Gordon and Tom Murphy. But losing a game you led 7-0 is just . . . humbling. And this team is plenty humble already.
Friday the M's once again took an early lead, but a more modest 2-0 one with a 2-run single from Murphy in a first inning that Houston starter Franber Valdez would just as soon forget. The M's would have had more if they weren't so undisciplined at the plate, as Tim Lopes struck out with the bases loaded and Shed Long fouled out to take the pressure off Valdez and end the top of the inning. That was enough for Houston to take the momentum away, and they came out swinging against "opener" Reggie McClain to take a 3-2 lead after one full frame. The Mariners would stay close, but never plate the tying run; the eventual 7-4 final masks lost opportunities that made this one seem like more of a blowout. The Mariners would rack up ten strikeouts from the second inning on, five with runners aboard. Brandon Brennan did throw two scoreless innings in relief and Daniel Vogelbach clubbed his 30th home run of the year, so there's that.
Yusei Kikuchi took the mound Saturday evening and for five innings was just as good as his counterpart, Justin Verlander. Kikuchi and the M's led 1-0 after five, thanks to a Dee Gordon triple that scored Shed Long in the third. Alex Bregman led off the sixth with a solo homer, though, and Scott Servais pulled Kikuchi for reliever Austin Adams. Adams would finish out the sixth with no problem, but in the seventh Kyle Tucker led off with a pinch-hit double and before another pitch was thrown an aura of defeat descended on the M's. Adams then wild-pitched Tucker to third, making an easy RBI for next batter Josh Reddick. That was all the scoring Houston would need, because Seattle can't keep from striking out. In the eighth, the M's threatened with Lopes and Gordon on third and second base, respectively, and one out. A fly ball or a grounder to the right side would tie the game, but the Astros weren't sweating it; Dylan Moore and Mallex Smith each swung at strike three from an unperturbed Josh James and Houston reliever Will Harris would easily set the M's down 1-2-3 in the ninth.
Then came Sunday. Facing Gerrit Cole is never a picnic, but he was in rare form for this one. Cole would pitch eight innings and face just one batter over the minimum. Shed Long connected for a solo home run in the fourth inning, but that was it. Nobody else reached base. Cole walked none and struck out fifteen. Meanwhile, Felix Hernández started for the Mariners, and Felix does not like pitching in Houston. Minute Maid Park is the site of some of The King's worst outings, he had four career losses there already in seven starts helped by a dismal 1.647 WHIP, and this day became another Houston nightmare for him. Though he set the Astros down 1-2-3 in the first, by the end of the second it was 4-0 Houston and in the third Felix wouldn't retire a single batter—after a double, hit batter, another double, yet another double, a ground-rule double, a walk, and, yes, another double, Felix's day was over. George Springer, freshly returned to the Astros' lineup, would then homer off of reliever Erik Swanson, and a single followed by another double would make it 13-0 Houston before the inning mercifully came to an end. The Astros would continue to run up the score, plating eight more to close the scoring at 21-1. Houston hit 11 doubles and two home runs on the day, plus they walked seven times. The M's struck out 17 times.
Good riddance to Houston. The M's are now 1-16 vs. the Astros on the season and have two more games against them to look forward to, but they will be back home in the Northwest to open the final week of the season. Get your tickets now. Or maybe unload any you've already got.
Mariners vs. Astros, by the numbers
- Total runs scored: 56 (SEA 15, HOU 41)
- Home runs hit: 13 (SEA 6, HOU 7)
- Bases stolen/attempts: 9/10 (SEA 6 - Gordon 2, Moore 2, Smith, Lopes; HOU 3)
- Errors committed: 5 (SEA 3 - McClain, Gordon, Moore; HOU 2)
- Quality starts: 2 (HOU 2 - Verlander, Cole)
- Pitching changes: 33 (SEA 18, HOU 15)
- Starters ERA (includes “openers”): 6.96 (SEA 10.13, HOU 4.74)
- Bullpen ERA (includes “headliners”): 5.11 (SEA 7.83, HOU 2.14)
- Runners left on base: 48 (SEA 18, HOU 30)
Do you think Scott Servais is doing a good job as manager of the Mariners?