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Series Preview: Mariners (70-61) vs. Astros (77-53)

The Mariners face a tough challenge as their postseason hopes dwindle.

Houston Astros v Texas Rangers Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

After closing the gap in the Wild Card standings to just 2.5 games at the end of their eight game road trip, the Mariners fell flat on their face against the Royals. That series loss is all the more frustrating because one or two of those losses could have easily been wins with a little more luck. During Thursday night’s loss, Base Runs thought the Mariners “should have” scored two more runs and allowed two fewer runs than they actually did. It was their most unlucky loss of the season if you believe in cluster luck. The Mariners have been relying on a ton of good luck throughout this postseason run and it was bound to run out sooner rather than later. Without some wins banked against Kansas City, they head into this series against the Astros with even more pressure on them.

At a Glance

Astros Mariners
Astros Mariners
Game 1 Monday, August 30 | 7:10 pm
RHP Luis Garcia RHP Chris Flexen
58% 42%
Game 2 Tuesday, August 31 | 7:10 pm
RHP Lance McCullers Jr. LHP Yusei Kikuchi
58% 42%
Game 3 Wednesday, September 1 | 1:10 pm
RHP Jake Odorizzi RHP Logan Gilbert
55% 45%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Astros Mariners Edge
Overview Astros Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 118 (1st in AL) 92 (12th in AL) Astros
Fielding (OAA) 39 (1st) -1 (9th) Astros
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 97 (5th) 111 (12th) Astros
Bullpen (FIP-) 100 (8th) 88 (3rd) Mariners

Since the Mariners last saw the Astros a few weeks ago, they’ve gotten a bit healthier, welcoming back both Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker from the Injured List. That means their roster is completely healthy now, with the exception of a few depth pieces missing. After losing that four-game series to the Royals in early-August, Houston has won their last three series in a row. Outside of the two massive offensive outbursts against the Mariners, they’re still struggling to score runs at the same pace as they had been earlier this season; they’ve scored just 3.7 runs per game over their last seven contests.

Astros Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Jose Altuve 2B R 544 0.277 128 0.7
Michael Brantley LF L 455 0.342 132 -0.8
Yuli Gurriel 1B R 485 0.323 137 -1.1
Yordan Alvarez DH L 473 0.328 145 0.0
Carlos Correa SS R 516 0.307 137 -0.8
Alex Bregman 3B R 279 0.314 122 -2.6
Kyle Tucker RF L 437 0.290 135 1.4
Jake Meyers CF R 72 0.432 141 1.2
Martín Maldonado C R 345 0.228 71 -4.7

Without Bregman and Tucker in the lineup, the Astros put up 30 runs against the Mariners in their last series in Houston. With those two back in the fold, they look nigh unstoppable. The lowest wRC+ of their first eight batters is Bregman’s at 122. Aledmys Díaz, who filled in capably at third for two months, finds himself on the bench despite a 123 wRC+ this year. Jake Meyers, an unranked prospect heading into this season, is in the middle of a huge breakout. Just looking at this lineup on paper exposes just how far the Mariners have to go before they can even think about playing at the Astros level.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Houston Astros at Kansas City Royals Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Luis Garcia

123 1/3 28.9% 7.4% 11.4% 37.0% 3.21 3.39
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 45.0% 93.3 2345 107 83 86
Cutter 22.5% 86.0 2380 85 176 106
Changeup 10.1% 83.4 1910 121 134 88
Curveball 9.4% 75.8 2264 90 121 111
Slider 13.0% 79.8 2381 89 118 158

After a brief cup of coffee at the end of last season, Luis Garcia has established himself as a legitimate contender for the AL Rookie of the Year award. He enjoyed a velocity bump in 2019 which helped him get on the radar as a prospect but his fastball isn’t his best pitch. All four of his secondary offerings are plus or better offerings and each of them are running whiff rates over 40%. Let me emphasize that again — batters are missing 40% of the time they swing at each of Garcia’s secondary offerings. That is absolutely ridiculous and gives him an extremely high ceiling despite an average fastball that gets hit pretty hard.

RHP Lance McCullers Jr.

127 1/3 27.8% 11.0% 12.2% 54.8% 3.32 3.54
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 35.8% 93.8 2101 109 124 94
Cutter 1.6% 89.5 2530
Changeup 13.7% 85.8 1711 111 119 125
Curveball 20.4% 84.0 2888 138 112 99
Slider 28.6% 86.0 2777 117 99 75

From a previous series preview:

Remember a few years ago when Lance McCullers’s success was built on throwing his curveball nearly half the time? After missing the entire 2019 because of Tommy John surgery, his pitch mix has changed drastically. He’s throwing his curveball just 20% of the time now and he’s introduced a slider to his repertoire to give him another breaking ball to keep batters off balance. His strikeout rate is as good as ever because all four of his pitches are running whiff rates north of 30%. That’s just around league average or slightly above for his three secondary offerings but a 30% whiff rate on his sinker is elite. He’s struggled a bit with his command this season, but all those strikeouts and an above average groundball rate have helped him mitigate all those extra base runners.

McCullers was dominant in his last start against the Mariners. He pitched six innings, allowing just two runs on five hits while striking out eight.

RHP Jake Odorizzi

84 2/3 21.0% 8.1% 15.0% 37.2% 4.46 4.95
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 55.3% 92.2 2106 85 106 95
Cutter 8.5% 87.3 2064 70 76 68
Splitter 22.6% 84.6 1246 79 62 93
Curveball 4.1% 73.0 2089 70
Slider 9.5% 83.2 2028 99 60 83

From a previous series preview:

After signing with Houston in late March and getting off to a delayed start to the season, Jake Odorizzi hasn’t found the success he enjoyed in his breakout 2019 season in Minnesota. He looks a lot like the mid-rotation starter from his days with the Rays earlier in his career. His strikeout rate has fallen to its lowest point since an abbreviated cup of coffee back in 2013. And with a batted ball profile that skews heavily towards fly ball contact, a significant home run problem has resurfaced after he was able to get it under control as a Twin. The biggest issue in his pitch mix is a splitter that just isn’t running the same kinds of whiff rates he saw with it earlier in his career.

In his previous start against Seattle, Odorizzi benefitted from a 12 run lead before giving up the only run of his outing in the sixth inning. He allowed four hits and four walks and struck out eight.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 77-53 0.592 -- W-W-W-W-L
Athletics 72-59 0.550 5.5 L-L-L-W-W
Mariners 70-61 0.534 7.5 W-L-L-L-W
Angels 64-67 0.489 13.5 W-L-L-L-W
Rangers 45-85 0.346 32.0 L-L-L-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 76-54 0.585 +2.0 W-W-W-L-L
Red Sox 75-57 0.568 -- L-W-W-W-L
Athletics 72-59 0.550 2.5 L-L-L-W-W
Mariners 70-61 0.534 4.5 W-L-L-L-W
Blue Jays 68-61 0.527 5.5 W-L-L-W-W

The Red Sox put some distance between themselves and the rest of the AL Wild Card field over the weekend. They finished off their series against the Twins with an emphatic 12-2 win on Thursday and then won two of three in Cleveland. They begin a ten game stretch where they play the Rays seven times beginning with a four-game set in Tampa Bay this afternoon. The A’s managed to subdue the red hot Yankees, winning back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday. They’re off today and travel to Detroit for three games tomorrow. The Blue Jays squeaked out a series win against the Tigers over the weekend. Just 11 total runs were scored across the three-game series and each game was decided by a single run. They return home to Toronto to host the Orioles this week.