Big series preview: Astros vs. Mariners


The idea of a big series in early to mid-April just seems counterintuitive. Can a series this early tell you anything about how a season is going to turn out? The Seattle Mariners are the hottest and best team in baseball right now at 12-2. If they beat up on the Astros this weekend at home, the Astros may never recover, right?

Take a step back to the recent past. At this time last year, which AL West team was on a roll similar to the M’s? The LA Angels were 13-3 and easily in first place in the division. They had beaten up on a number of teams including going 5-2 against the Oakland A’s.  The Angels were 2.5 games up on the Astros and 7.5 games!!! up on the A’s.

Guess what. The Angels ended up the season 80-82 and 23 games behind the AL West Champ Astros and 17 games behind the Wild Card Oakland A’s. So, though this weekend’s series between the 1st place Mariners and 2nd place Astros may have great entertainment value, it is clear that even if one or the other team crushes its foe, there may be just a little time (like 90% of the season) to reverse any early season trends.

On the other hand, you need not look any farther back than the Astros 2015 surprise season to see the other side of the argument. The Astros had an early 10 game winning streak that resulted in an 18-7 record and a seven-game lead in the West. Basically, that allowed them to hold the AL West lead for most of the season and they made the Wild Card game with an 86-76 record. So, early surprise success may or may not result in a surprise season.

But for grins, let’s compare the two teams as they get ready to bump heads.

Offense

If this series comes down to offense and if each team produces on offense like they have to this point, then the Astros may as well stay home. (All stats are through Wednesday’s games).  Seattle is leading the AL in BA (.295), OBP (.373), OPS (.932), runs/game (7.86), doubles (29), HRs (34), RBIs (109) and SBs (17). One hard to fathom comparison is between the M’s 7.86 runs/ game, which is double the Astros 3.92 runs/game. Former Astro prospect, Domingo Santana is leading the league with 19 RBIs, which is more than Max Stassi, Tyler White, Josh Reddick, Jake Marisnick, Tony Kemp, Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman, Aledmys Diaz, and Robinson Chirinos…….COMBINED.  The Astros top run producer is George Springer with 10 RBIs. For the M’s, Santana (19 RBIs), Jay Bruce (13), Ryon Healy (12), Tim Beckham (11), Edwin Encarnacion (11), Mitch Haniger (10) and Daniel Vogelbach (10) all have that many RBIs or more. A lot of this is of course unsustainable. Santana is not going to have the 220 RBIs he is on pace for in a sport where Hack Wilson‘s 191 RBIs have stood up for 88 seasons. Jay Bruce is only hitting .204, but 7 of his 10 hits are home runs and he has 3 more RBIs than hits. Something has to give.

On the other side of the measure, the Astros bats after a terrible start, which saw them score only 15 runs in their first 7 games (2.14 runs/game), have warmed up and scored 6 runs/game on their recent six-game home stand which they swept. The Astros are 2nd in BA (.282) in the AL and 4th in OBP (.355) and OPS (.819), but only 9th in runs scored (51).  This is a reflection of their early inability to hit with runners in scoring position. They have almost doubled their BA with runners in scoring position to a terrible .183 after hitting a pitiful .095 a few days ago. A red hot Jose Altuve, who is 12 of 28 with 4 HRs in his last seven games has led their uptick in fortunes. They have 5 guys hitting over .300 and 6 guys with OPS over .800 and Springer along with newly acquired Michael Brantley are leading the way in driving in runs. Key points headed into the weekend will be if and how they replace Alex Bregman, who had gotten on base 21 times in the last 8 games before tweaking his hamstring on Tuesday night and what they will do with the DH spot where Tyler White has performed poorly so far this season.

Offense – Advantage – M’s

Starting Pitching

Matchups for the M’s – Astros series

Wade Miley (1-1 2.31 ERA) vs. Wade LeBlanc (2-0, 4.76 ERA)

Justin Verlander (1-0, 4.24 ERA) vs. Felix Hernandez (1-0, 4.26 ERA)

Gerrit Cole (0-2, 3.32 ERA)    vs. Marco Gonzalez (4-0, 3.16 ERA)

With James Paxton gone, the starting pitching was one suspect area for the M’s heading into 2018. So far, they have been solid (3.72 ERA – 7th in the league) but unspectacular. The starters have definitely been riding the tsunami of an offense to a 9-0 record on the season. Mike Leake (2-0, 2.92 ERA) and Gonzalez have been the best of the starters. LeBlanc, who pitched in 4 games for the Astros in the hell hole of 2013 has been lucky so far. Hernandez had one decent start and then left his second start after one innings with some type of virus. Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 4.15 ERA) has been solid for them.

The surprise for the Astros is that their two best starters have not been Verlander and Cole (who both could sue for non-support), but Miley and Collin McHugh (2-1, 2.65 ERA). Verlander has looked uncomfortable in his starts, struggling for pitch placement and Cole has shown great stuff and the ability to lose focus and give up just enough runs to lose. Brad Peacock (1-0, 4.63 ERA) has had one good and one bad start so far and with Thursday’s off day he is being skipped in the rotation this time around.

Starting Pitching – Advantage Astros

Bullpens

The Mariners weakest part to date has been their bullpen which has a below average 4.09 ERA for 10th in the league. As we discussed in the division wrapup a few weeks ago…

https://chipalatta.com/2019/03/28/astros-opening-day-a-look-at-the-al-west-division/

…..the M’s lost or traded four of their better bullpen arms out of a good bullpen over the off-season. As the Astros showed against the Yankees, they have the patience and talent to take advantage of a very good bullpen and right now the M’s are a good but not deep bullpen. If the Astros can force their way into the back of the bullpen they may find some gold.

The M’s new closer Roenis Elias has been excellent, retread Brandon Brennan has been untouchable, and Anthony Swarzak and Connor Sadzeck have been unscored upon. On the other hand, Zac Rosscup has been a lucky duck (5 hits including a HR and 7 walks in 4.1 IP resulting in only 1 run charged against him) and both Matt Festa and Corey Gearing have been Festa-ed upon by the opposition.

The Astros bullpen has been a real strength for the team, especially during their 6 game winning streak, except for the youngsters Josh James and Framber Valdez who have given up 9 of the 12 runs the bullpen has surrendered to date. Roberto Osuna is 4 for 4 in save opportunities with a 1.50 ERA. Ryan Pressly looks like someone who really, really, really loves the extension he was given as he has a 0.00 ERA and has only allowed 3 of the 20 batters he has faced to get on base. Will Harris is unscored upon, Hector Rondon has given up one dinger and Chris Devenski has been hittable, but has not been walking anyone.

Bullpen – Advantage – Astros

The key to the series may be if the Astros pitching staff can cool off a red hot M’s team like they just did to the Yankees in a 3 game sweep. The M’s have to be feeling unbeatable right now – they are 12-2 and playing an afternoon game against the hapless Royals (2-9) on Thursday. It may not be a “Big” series in the scheme of things, but it is likely both teams will play like it is.

Prediction – Astros take 2 out of 3

103 comments on “Big series preview: Astros vs. Mariners

  1. I’ll jump in. The Mariners have faced some of the worst pitching in baseball. Boston, CWS and Royals are all ranked at the bottom of MLB and the Angels and Oakland are middle of the pack.
    Some of that is a reflection of how well the Mariners have hit and a lot of it is because those pitching staffs are bad.
    Right now, the Mariners have the highest team batting average in baseball and the Astros are second. The Astros have not had the luxury of facing three of the highest ERA teams in baseball. The Royals are 26th, the Red Sox are 27th and the CWS are 30th.
    The worst staff the Astros have faced are the Rangers at 19th and the Rays have the lowest ERA of any team in MLB.
    So, we will see what happens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • By the way reliever Corey Gearing should be Cory Gearrin above – damn my autocorrect, fat fingers and bad eyesight – and the sun was in my eyes – and my shoes came untied

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  2. Give credit to the M’s for doing what they have accomplished against that bad pitching. But I expect their offensive explosion will almost certainly be defused by Miley, Verlander and Cole. If they stay on a roll they could be trouble. But while they are first on offense the M’s are also last in defense. I expect they will give away a lot more games than we will. They have committed 19 errors so far to the Astros 6. And historically we have hit fairly well in Safeco/T-Mobile. Another vote for the Astros prevailing in 2 of 3.

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  3. First off, I hope Domingo comes down with the flu for the weekend, but recovers quickly and keeps hitting and gets to play everyday. I’ve liked him since first seeing him in Corpus some moons ago. He’s still only 26 though! I just don’t like him enough to watch him beat us.

    Yes, run up the pitch counts and get to the bullpen. That should be the MO this weekend. And I’m hopeful the M’s won’t keep hitting three homers a game against our guys.

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  4. I’ve always been in the camp that a win is a win, whether in April or September. Right now Seattle has more than we do and that needs to change, the sooner the better IMHO. Two of three sounds reasonable, but if our pitchers keep up what they have been doing I think we can cool them off and look for a sweep!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been tracking the M’s – Royals series finale on mlb.com off and on during the work day. The Royals had a 4-0 lead heading into the 6th inning. They had a 6-3 leading heading into the 8th and a 6-4 lead heading into the 9th and then Haniger ties the game with a 2 out full count triple with two guys on in the top of the 9th.
    Now they are headed to extra innings…..I’m sure glad this is not the last week of the year – I would be going bananas
    By the way if what I am reading is right – Domingo Santana in his 15th game had his 4th error of the year. That would be bad if he was playing SS, much less the OF….

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    • I have learned not to guess with Luhnow. It could be anything from bringing up somebody because of Bregman’s hamstring to a trade out of lefty relievers.

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  6. Some roster thoughts
    – Bound to be a pitcher
    – For guys on the 40 man – Rogelio Armenteros and Brady Rodgers have pitched very well so far. Dean Deetz and Cionel Perez have not.
    – They have two spots on the 40 man – so maybe somebody like Brendan McCurry who has pitched excellently might get his shot
    – It could be Forrest Whitley, who I think is past the date when he costs them an extra year of control, but it just feels like they will want him to get his feet more than wet at AAA
    – The Keuchel idea works in some ways, but they would have to send him to extended spring training first so there is no reason to send Framber down right now
    – They grab Kimbrel???? But again they would have to get him reps
    – They make a trade

    I’m going to say – McCurry out of left field

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  7. Bringing up Reymin Guduan in Framber’S place. I hope he’s learned to control his pitches he’s not that good. The only question I have in the rotation is Garrett Cole. His last start almost blew up like the start he went off the rails with the ump. His mound presence has me worried.

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  8. Guduan had a great spring, specifically in one area that Framber needs work. His 13 K’s against 2 walks have to be at least somewhat of a factor. And then 6 and 1 in RR. I hope he’s a late blooming lefty. Will be interesting to see if Hinch uses him in a critical situation early.

    Don’t worry about Cole. He went a strong 7 against a very dangerous line up. 3 games, 13 hits in 19 innings. 25 K’s, just 6 walks. WHIP of 1.000. I’d take a season of those numbers. He just needs his guys to go out and score some runs for him. That’ll change his disposition Mrs. Mac. Worry about my nephew instead. He’s a good boy.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I find it interesting that MLBtraderumors which reports every little hang nail has not yet reported on the Framber Valdez demotion

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  10. I noticed that too old pro about mlbtraderumors and these extensions. You would think they are agents – they are completely on the players side and still claim they are in the middle.
    When it comes to an extension the player does not have to sign if they want to take the chance on themselves that they will continue their performance and not get hurt. If they choose the comfort of surety of payment it comes at a cost.

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  11. Things are looking pretty good. Everyone is hitting. Two legged Altuve is back. Miley actually gave us a pretty good 5. Domingo got his two RBI’s off a bloop. Peacock looks solid. And now we can really pile it on against their pen. Too early to say this, but our guys are walking up to the plate reminding me of 2017. Night folks, I’m back in the ocean and have to get up for work in 5.5 hours.

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  12. -I know Bregman wants to play, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he sits out another one.
    -Man, Altuve has found his vision.
    – Even in his strikeout, Correa looked better and more comfortable at the plate tonight.
    -Devenski is leaving so many pitches up in the zone.
    – I’m hoping Yuli’s Slam opens up the dam for him.
    – Framber got a save Friday in his first game in Round Rock.
    – Michael Brantley’s career K rate is 10.7%, but this season it’s 15.5%. He has gone fishing for a bunch of low sliders.
    – Peacock deservedly got the win Friday night.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Good morning to all of you late sleepers. Boy, that game was far from over when I turned in! 1OP, I agree, Devenski looks like an accident waiting to happen. My grandma loved that line.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Last night they mentioned this was the third time the Astros had ever hit two grand slams in a game. I remember the first time back in 1969 very well because of the unusual circumstances:
    – Denis Menke and the Toy Cannon Jimmy Wynn not only hit the two slams in he same game – it was in the same inning
    – It was part of an 11 run ninth inning that tore open a tight 5-3 game against the Mets
    – Wynn and Menke batted consecutively in the lineup. Wynn was on base for Menke’s blast that opened the scoring. Wynn then ended the scoring with his slam
    – Reliever Fred “Flintstone” Gladding who wore thick glasses was he worst hitter I’ve ever seen and batted twice in this inning. He ended his carrer 1 for 63 with 40 Ks but his one hit allowed Wynn to come to bat and he scored hi only career run

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same here, Dan. I was just telling my son how well I remember that DH vs Mets in 1969. I was at my aunt’s house in Baytown listening on the radio. Didn’t remember the scores, just that both games were blowouts.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I was telling the darling wife about the two slams in the same inning also. I was listening to that game when it happened. I was dismayed that the announcers did not dive into that more deeply than they did. A different generation…

      Liked by 2 people

      • The radio guys gave it some play, sarge. Robert Ford is such a baseball geek: he mentioned the 2 previous times the Astros had 2 slams in one game (Chris Carter and Jon Singleton(?!)),and the one in 1969, noting it was Wynn and Menke and that it happened in the same inning.

        Liked by 2 people

  15. – That 1969 game was part of a double header and the Astros after having a 11 run inning in the 9th inning rode a 10 run 3rd inning in the nightcap to a 11-5 sweep of the Mets
    – Larry Dierker made the second out in that inning and the Astros had not scored yet – they then scored 10 two out runs including Dierker coming up again and hitting a homer
    – The Astros won the season series against the Mets 10-2 in 1969, but the Miracle Mets went on to win the whole enchilada

    Liked by 1 person

  16. The Mariners added two pitchers to their team Friday to bolster their bullpen.
    One gave up the grand slam to Altuve and the other gave up the grand slam to Gurriel.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Joe Musgrove throws a breaking ball that crosses the plate halfway between the batter’s ankles and knees. Statcast shows it to be at least 4 inches below the zone
    Cervelli, in his zeal to frame it upward and appear to be higher than it is, completely misses catching it and it bounces all the way back to the backstop.
    The home plate ump calls it a strike. I kid you not. Here it is:
    [video src="https://giant.gfycat.com/JovialFoolhardyBluefish.mp4" /]
    Hope the link works.

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  18. Verlander was so much sharper tonight. The Astros needed that.
    The Mariner’s catcher cost Felix a lot of strikes. Narvaez was bad!
    Jake Marisnick was a huge part of the Astros win tonight in CF.
    Every time I see Pressly’s breaking ball I cant believe how sharp it breaks.
    The difference between Giles and Osuna is like night and day.
    Tonight you could really see the difference in Bregman’s arm. His throws are so good.
    Verlander was so jazzed after the game. He must have talked for five minutes by his locker to the press.
    Notice how we like Robinson Chirinos so much more this season than in the past.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What other guy at third charges a ball and makes a throw across his chest like Bregman does? Late this afternoon, check. I chatted with couple of Phil’s fas.

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  19. Those first few games of the season, I think this team was still trying to figure out how to play as a unit. From the first game of opening season at home, they just clicked, and they are playing as one! You can tell the way the pitchers look back and see the defence behind them that they know one of those guys out there are going to track down those balls. We have an even better team this year than the 2017 were. Again, there are absolutely no holes in this lineup!

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  20. I have never been a fan of having JFSF on the team. However, tonight he went 2 for 2 with 2 extra base hit TAKEAWAYS. I know every pitcher on the team doesn’t care if he never gets a hit. They were not highlight reel type plays but no other center-fielder in the game catches both of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • After 15 games the guy with the highest batting average is JFSF at .346
      I’m sure they would take a season average of .250 right now and not look back

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  21. Right now the Astros and Rays are the most complete teams in MLB and the cream is rising to the top. Our Achilles heel is middle relief and I wonder how long Luhnow will allow that to continue. Why the FO appears to like Harris so much makes me scratch my head, Rondon was awful with inherited runners and James looks like he lacks confidence. I’m really close to labeling Devenski as done. His mechanics are still awful and not repeatable and it seems like his change up is being taken a lot more. The easy answer may be to keep Peacock in the pen but that is so unfair to him and then who do you bring up to take the fifth starter spot when we need one again. My best case scenario is for the light bulb to come on for Guduan and for James to settle in. It was pitiful that we had to bring in Osuna in a game we led by five going into the ninth. I love the April victories but sure don’t want to see Pressly and Osuna overused early. A laugher today would be just what the doctor orders.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. My nephew is sitting against a lefty this afternoon. Last year he hit .305/.417/.595/1.o10 against them. I think Nephew is in the dog house. So much for him being our regular DH.

    And I know Tony needs playing time, but I’d much rather see Jake out in center against the lefty.

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  23. I’ve been enjoying Brian Bogusevic on the pre and post games with Mike Stanton doing color on the games. Bogu has been pretty smooth and upbeat without being annoying

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  24. Brennan is doing for them what Devenski once did for us. Killer change; and he, unlike the modern version of Devenski, actually throws it for strikes at will. Come back, you old Dragon!

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  25. At some point Stassi is going to have to start hitting but today he’s shown why the team values his defense.

    3-2…I think we need one more run

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  26. We don’t get those first two runs without Tony Kemp! I’m sure the M’s are not happy with the Umps today! GREAT game fellas!

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