Astros-Mariners: A must-win for Houston?

This year, 2020 will be best seen in our rearview mirrors. It has been hurtful in so many significant ways between health issues, death rates, bankruptcies, job loss and loss of freedoms.

In a small way, 2020 has turned this baseball season into Bizarroville. Seven inning doubleheaders, guys put on second base to start extra innings, 30 man rosters, teams shut down for a week or two at a time by a vicious virus, 3 hitter minimums for relief pitchers and a 60 game season.

So, it has changed the timetable of the season in our minds. The Astros sit at 8-10. They are 4-1/2 games behind the A’s for the division. They are 1/2 game behind the Rangers (spit!) for the second playoff spot from the AL West and they are 1-1/2 games out of the second wild card spot for the AL. It’s only three weeks into the season, yet here we are playing the last place (2 games behind the Astros) Seattle Mariners and it feels like a must-win series.

Last season the Astros played their 19th game on April 19. Any thought that a series at that point in the season was of much importance would have been laughable. But this season is of course different. The Astros have been a sinking ship lately, dropping from a tie for the division lead on August 2 to the present spot in a nine-game free fall. They need more than a leveling off at this point. They need to get the momentum going back the other way, which they did in a small way with their 2-1 series win against the Giants.

The Mariners come to town with a 7-13 record on the year. They have lost 9 of their last 12 games. They have been the Astros’ patsy winning only 1 of 9 games this season and having lost 3 of 4 to start the year against the Astros.

Frankly, losing this series to the M’s could be disastrous for the Astros overall chances, both psychologically and in real terms.

However, on the plus side…

  • Wunderkind Yordan Alvarez returns to a lineup that has been scoring a decent amount of runs but has missed a spark at times especially late and close.
  • George Springer returned from his injury on Wednesday and helped to jump-start the offense in a 5-1 win over SF.
  • The Astros have three solid-looking pitchers going in this series. Framber Valdez has found the plate, still throws a ball with tremendous movement and has been one of their most effective pitchers this season. Lance McCullers Jr.pitched a great start last time out allowing one hit and no walks in seven innings against the Giants. Cristian Javier hit a bump in the road Sunday against the A’s but otherwise has been a good pitcher this season.
  • Alex Bregman (a friend of the blog, Astro Nut pointed out) has been on a 10 game roll, which is a welcome turnaround after his usual turtle start to the season.
  • Perhaps, Jose Altuve, after being forced to sit out Wednesday night’s game will come back with a vengeance from his Max Stassi-like start to 2020.

Is this a must-win series for the Astros? Well in mathematical terms, of course not. Even in this shortened season, there will be about 2/3 of the season to go. But losing this series could be very discouraging to them psychologically, and the last thing an 8-10 team needs at this point is doubt in themselves.

37 comments on “Astros-Mariners: A must-win for Houston?

  1. With Yordan Alvarez being activated – Nivaldo Rodriguez will be taken off the 28 man roster. Rodriguez struggled in 4 appearances, but to be fair to the young man – he has never pitched above A+ ball before.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel that, since the Astros are the league office’s punching bag, Crane should embrace it and go all in. Bring Hinch back next season to be the bench coach then the manager the following season. Bring Luhnow back in an executive scouting position next season. Just be the bad guy that the league makes the club out to be.

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  2. If this season is going to turn around Altuve is critical. So far he seems to be going through the motions. He is striking out much too often, hasn’t been sharp in the field or the bases and generally seems disinterested. I make those assertions based on his body language and expressions. I also wonder if this bunch of guys sees the end to a wonderful run and the imminent sundering of relationships they have built up over the past four years. Add to that the cloud of a makeshift and tenuous season that is one or two major outbreaks away from getting called off and one can understand a lack of enthusiasm and loss of mental acuity. I just want to see an overall higher quality of baseball being played. With as much talent as there is on this team that ought to be enough to get to the playoffs.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Good to hear from you Dr Bill
    I can accept players slumping at the plate – it happens to them all – but it should not lop over to fielding or baserunning
    You never know what is happening with any of these guys – they may have off field issues – wife wants them home – a relative sick – not being able to see parents – all of it – they are just people

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It seems to me that Altuve is trying to do too much and putting pressure on himself. I think he will come around as others are starting to heat up. Reddick in his last 7 games (avg / obp / slg / ops): .346 / .393 / .423 / .816.

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  5. Positive pitching news:

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dusty, while doing the post game interview, suggested that he might move Alvarez down in the lineup… I just shake my head…

    When Valdez slipped last night, and walked two men afterwards, we felt Dusty should have called time, told the umpire he wanted to check on Valdez for a possible injury, and use that uncharged visit just to slow him down and let him recover himself.

    We feel bad about Dusty as manager…

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    • And someone needs to get Tucker and Altuve into the batting cages for some serious work. Bagwell mentioned, last night, what Tucker’s problems are.

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      • I don’t understand having a HOF like Bagwell and having a long homestand and not have him give some tutoring to your problem children.
        Altuve is swinging waaaay outside the strike zone almost every at bat.
        I didn’t hear what Bags said about Tucker , sarge – though he’s obviously pulling everything.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. All happened so far today:
    Leury Garcia out for the year.
    Ian Hamilton to the IL
    Red’s player tests positive, Red’s games cancelled.
    Strasberg to the IL
    Ivan Nova to the IL
    CJ Cron out for the year with knee surgery.
    Ronald Acuna Jr to the Braves IL.
    Padres closer Kirby Yates to the IL.

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  8. Michael Brantley to the IL.
    Joe Biagini back to the Astros bullpen.
    Last night’s Seattle starter Nestor Cortes to the IL.
    Brian Shaw, who replaced Cortes in that game was waived.

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  9. Add to today’s list:
    O’s Austin Hays to IL with rib fracture.
    Doggers starting catcher Will Smith to the IL.
    Yankees’ LeMahieu with sprained thumb. May be headed to IL.
    Royal’s lefty Foster Griffin had TJ surgery and will miss 2020 and 2021. He was injured in his very first major league appearance.

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  10. Javier bounces back from his problems in his last start and is double tough against the Mariners.
    The offense goes on vacation but they actually close out a one run game.

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  11. If the regular season had ended tonight, the Astros would be the #7 seed in the AL and would be headed to Yankee Stadium to play a three game elimination series there.

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    • Maybe that’s their master plan – they’re not really so indifferent, but rather angry and want to travel to NY so they can resoundingly defeat the pinstripes in their own house.

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  12. Nice win today. Still struggling to find interest; I find more self more interested in how the Rockies are doing and wishing I was watching Charlie Blackmon tear the cover off the ball rather than watching Altuve play like he doesn’t give a damn.

    The two players I’ve really enjoyed watching so far have been Javier and Scrubb.

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  13. Some totally random Sunday baseball thoughts:
    – MLB’s idea to possibly increase the 60-man player pool to 75 players, in order to help teams combat Covid and also create more prospect development, is intriguing. Players who were held back because of injuries they had been rehabbing from in the spring might now be available to add to the Astros minor league camp. It would be interesting to see Jairo Solis, Tyler Ivey and Peter Solomon and get reports on their status and/or progress.
    -Brandon Bailey was taken off the roster to make room for Biagini. Bailey’s two innings of work the other night might have contributed to that decision, but I still aint happy about it.
    – Got to see Raley pitch last night. His fastball looks like a left-handed version of Biagini’s. It seems to glide in there like a t-ball setup. However, the last curve he spun in there absolutely froze the batter.
    – I don’t know why, but today’s game seems so important to me. It may be that we face the Rockies four straight days makes today’s game seem like a must win.
    – We face another lefty today and another one tomorrow. Hello! Astros right handed hitters! It might be time to wake up. Hello? No Yuri, you’re doing just fine. I’m addressing your teammates.

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    • OP – when it comes to Yankee hype it reminds me of the movie Dodgeball where Gary Cole announces that the Dodgeball final is a sporting event like “the World Cup, World Series and World War II combined.”

      Clint Frazier has been on fire for 3 or 4 games so I’m sure he’s Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle combined.

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      • (Rambling thoughts myself)
        Well played, Dan!

        I’m wondering the same on things mentioned by Op. Got a good feeling about Ivey Solis and Pete Solomon, too. Two others we don’t hear a word about are Martes and Deetz (saying a lil prayer the former doesn’t fall in any way into the latter group.)

        Btw, Raley’s previous outing was Lights Out. His fastball / change had wicked armside run, and he was untouchable. Heck of a find he was, and testament to former Astros pitch coach and now Reds’, Kyle Boddy, for turning that program around.

        But I must say if you don’t have Brett CONINE on radar — make it so, Captain. Watched him again yesterday in Corpus and just wow! That curveball is a *serious* weapon with his command. He works fast, and confident. A former Closer like Ty Brown, and Austin Hansen, Astros are telling these guys they are Starters, until they aren’t. I love that.

        The other guy charging up my Top 20 list is Blair Henley. What a steal in 7th round in 21019.

        Speaking of heaters, everyone is anticipating BIG things from Hunter Brown. The guy who really turned heads in intrasquad, Jojanse Torres. We still haven’t seen Dubin Rivera Manny Ramirez or Angel Maquarie — all fireballers.

        Josh James has been an enigma, and frankly a 3-outcome pitcher that doesn’t lend itself to pitching to weak contact. Much as I love this guy, I really have to wonder what his future is. Instead of my hi hopes he could someday be #2, he hasn’t harnassed command & it’s looking more like reliever is his forte.

        One thing from my vantage that there’s abundant depth within was that he’d only have a window to capture and keep SP4. He’s quite frustrated that hasn’t materialized, but through help with Jesse Michel and others, he seems to just focus on the immediate task at hand. Watching intently on his progress. One thing, we can see a vast difference between M’s and LAD’s lineup.

        Maybe confidence buildup is in order to unleash this talent. Today is a good day to keep it going.

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    • After. One. One slide.

      Players in every sport are dropping like flies.
      Adding to Op’s comment above: last season 19 of the Yankees 25 starting roster was on the IL. Eight other teams had double digit players on IL simultaneously, and the Rays used 51 players.

      Again, it’s not that “they just don’t make ’em the same any more.” There’s way too big a gap between 350 Innings pitched and 200 as a max to draw any other conclusion. Guys back in the day tried to throw hard, too.

      It’s that the basic building blocks are more frail. This has happened every year, gets worse and worse, and people just say that’s how it’s always been.
      But what do I know…

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  14. It’s safe to say that at this point that our 23 year old ROY has bad wheels. That could be rather devastating. How much more rest could he have gotten? I hope there is a medical solution, even if it means surgery.

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  15. Such a big win for the club. The homer by Tucker means a lot to the Astros, but it could mean even more to a struggling Tucker.
    That was an awesome swing!

    Like

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