This series is (weirdly) probably the Mariners most important series of the season so far. The Astros have performed exceptionally well in the month of April on their way to one of the best records in all of baseball. As Jake pointed out in his series preview, the Astros have been good at hitting and pitching and fielding. It's been so easy to simply dismiss the Astros as a true competitor for the past several years (despite the fact that they've always been competetive when playing the M's), but it's not particularly easy to look at this team and pick out too many fatal flaws. They might just stick around at/near the top of the AL West for awhile this season. Houston currently holds a four game lead over the Mariners; although winning three (or more!) of these games would be lovely, I think that a series split would be pretty dandy.
Somewhat strangely, Paxton has not only never faced the Astros before, he's also never pitched against any player currently playing for Houston. Weird! Hopefully he can use this unfamiliarity and have a long, productive outing. Maybe he could pick up 10+ strikeouts against these free-swinging Astros? That'd be nice. He really could use a solid start...
On the other side of the diamond, righty Scott Feldman will be toeing the rubber for the Astros. Feldman is a fairly solid back-end-of-the-rotation starter. His stuff isn't flashy, but he's been able to limit his walks and home runs and has enjoyed a not bad 11-year MLB career so far. That being said, Mariners players have only managed a combined 0.689 OPS against him in 105 plate appearances (Feldman's career OPS against is 0.742). The only Mariner to go yard against Feldman was Ackley, who hit a dinger just beyond the outstretched glove of Nelson Cruz back in 2012.
This lineup looks a lot better than the one Lloyd ran out against the Rangers (but they won all of those games so who even knows what "good" or "bad" is anymore), so hopefully they'll be able to do some damage against Feldman and the Astros 'pen. We'll find out soon!
|SEATTLE MARINERS||HOUSTON ASTROS|
|Seth Smith - RF||Jose Altuve - 2B|
|Austin Jackson - CF||Luis Valbuena - 3B|
|Robinson Cano - 2B||George Springer - RF|
|Nelson Cruz - DH||Evan Gattis - DH|
|Kyle Seager - 3B||Chris Carter - 1B|
|Logan Morrison - 1B||Jason Castro - C|
|Brad Miller - SS||Jake Marisnick - CF|
|Dustin Ackley - LF||Marwin Gonzalez - SS|
|Mike Zunino - C||Robbie Grossman - LF|
|James Paxton - LHP||Scott Feldman - RHP|