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Series Preview: Mariners (8-5) vs. Astros (6-6)

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The Mariners return home to face an Astros team wracked by COVID issues.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Houston Astros Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners return home after a weird series in Baltimore that included two rainouts and two doubleheaders. For those counting at home, that’s seven innings we were cheated out of during that series, though I’m sure the Mariners don’t mind much. They managed to win three of those four games in Baltimore and were just a seeing eye single against the shift away from sweeping the series. The M’s will head into this weekend series against the Astros holding the division lead in the AL West. But the schedule gets a lot harder over the next few weeks.

At a Glance

Astros Mariners
Astros Mariners
Game 1 Friday, April 16 | 7:10 pm
RHP José Urquidy LHP Yusei Kikuchi
59% 41%
Game 2 Saturday, April 17 | 6:10 pm
RHP Zack Greinke RHP Chris Flexen
64% 36%
Game 3 Sunday, April 18 | 1:10 pm
RHP Jake Odorizzi LHP Justus Sheffield
56% 44%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Astros Mariners Edge
Overview Astros Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 100 (10th in AL) 91 (12th in AL) Astros
Fielding (DRS) 9 (7th) 14 (5th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 98 (5th) 98 (4th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 102 (9th) 132 (15th) Astros
2020 stats

The Astros have limped through a rocky start to their season that’s been exacerbated by nearly half of their starting lineup being sidelined by COVID protocols. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, and Martín Maldonado were all placed on the COVID-19 injured list on Wednesday. A number of players received their second shot of the COVID vaccine on that same day and some of them played through some side effects. But without any information from the team, it’s unclear whether or not these players were part of that round of vaccinations, or if they were sidelined because they’ve tested positive themselves or were close contacts with a positive case. Whatever the case may be, the Astros look like they’ll play this series without a significant portion of their starting lineup.

All these health issues popped up on Wednesday but they were struggling well before that. They lost a series against the Athletics last weekend and were swept by the Tigers at home earlier this week. That’s put them on a five-game losing streak and has put a damper on their season after a 6-1 start.

Projected Astros Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Myles Straw CF R 86 0.283 40 1.0
Aledmys Díaz 2B R 59 0.256 97 0.3
Michael Brantley LF L 187 0.336 135 -1.6
Yuli Gurriel 1B R 230 0.235 79 0.3
Kyle Tucker RF L 228 0.303 126 3.2
Carlos Correa SS R 221 0.324 98 -0.2
Abraham Toro 3B S 97 0.164 47 0.4
Chas McCormick DH L 448 0.285 117
Jason Castro C L 92 0.289 85 -0.3
2020 stats; McCormick’s stats from 2019, Double-A and Triple-A combined.

A lineup that should be filled with star power looks a lot less intimidating without names like Altuve, Bregman, and Alvarez in it. In their place, Aledmys Díaz, Abraham Toro, and Chas McCormick are filling in. Díaz and Toro have had some success at the major league level already but McCormick is a rookie with all of 11 major league plate appearances to his name. Those three certainly aren’t as talented as the trio they’re replacing, but they’re quality depth that will do in a pinch. The Astros still have part of their core intact too. Michael Brantley, Kyle Tucker, and Carlos Correa are still plenty dangerous and will look to carry the load while their teammates are out of commission.

Probable Pitchers

Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

RHP José Urquidy

29 2/3 14.7% 6.9% 10.8% 35.6% 2.73 4.71
2020 stats; Urquidy did not accumulate enough innings for Stuff+ or pitch arsenal scores.

José Urquidy had his own issues with COVID a year ago. A positive test prevented him from debuting until September and he wasn’t up to full strength after such a long layoff. He had to build up his arm strength from basically zero in the middle of the season and that really affected his ability to follow up a promising rookie season in 2019. His arsenal consists of a good, riding fastball and three solid secondary offerings. Each of his pitches possess phenomenal horizontal movement with his curveball also featuring a tremendous amount of drop. And despite all that movement, he can throw all four of his offerings with pinpoint command.

RHP Zack Greinke

67 24.5% 3.3% 9.2% 41.2% 4.03 2.80
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 40.9% 88.1 2329 43 70 79
Changeup 22.1% 86.2 1682 64 155 107
Curveball 15.3% 70.6 2428 92 82 145
Slider 16.1% 84.5 2422 119 62 106
2020 stats

With Gerrit Cole in New York and Justin Verlander shelved due to Tommy John surgery, Zack Greinke is the lone stabilizing presence in the Astros rotation now. His durability and experience have helped him continue to post impressive numbers despite a pitch repertoire that has seriously deteriorated since his heyday with the Royals. His fastball velocity has now dropped to just 88 mph but impeccable command and a fantastic ability to sequence his pitches well has given him the tools to thrive deep into his 30s.

RHP Jake Odorizzi

13 2/3 20.0% 5.0% 23.5% 35.7% 6.59 6.12
2020 stats; Odorizzi did not accumulate enough innings for Stuff+ or pitch arsenal scores.

After a very successful 2019 season, Jake Odorizzi accepted the Twins qualifying offer and stuck around Minnesota hoping to find a better deal after the 2020 season. Unfortunately, a series of injuries last year wiped out most his season and he entered this offseason in a much worse position than before. He signed with Houston in early March after Framber Valdez broke his finger and the late start to his preseason ramp up has meant he’s only made one start so far this year. His breakout in Minnesota was fueled by a new cutter that gave him another secondary offering to pair with his fastball and splitter. He posted the highest strikeout rate of his career two years ago and will hope to build on that success in Houston, despite the one year interruption.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Mariners 8-5 0.615 -- W-W-L-W-W
Angels 7-5 0.583 0.5 W-L-W-L-L
Astros 6-6 0.500 1.5 L-L-L-L-L
Athletics 6-7 0.462 2.0 W-W-W-W-W
Rangers 6-7 0.462 2.0 L-L-W-W-W

After a rough 1-7 start to the season, the Athletics have gotten back on the right track by winning five in a row. They swept a two-game series against the Diamondbacks earlier this week and won the first game of a four-game set against the Tigers last night. The Angels lost their most recent series against the Royals and host the Twins this weekend. The Rangers just won three of four against the Rays and host the Orioles this weekend.