You’ve seen this one before. The Mariners played the Astros really hard, but couldn’t quite capitalize and ultimately lost on a late-inning homer. The way it played out this time, the game was tied at two headed into the eighth inning. Seattle loaded the bases with nobody out, but couldn’t score. Immediately afterwards, Martín Maldonado, who is currently rocking a 52 wRC+, hit a home run off the Mariners best pitcher.
I will say, however, that the first seven innings were pretty cool. OK, not the first inning, where the Mariners went down on ten pitches, including two strikeouts, and then Bryan Woo was trying to be a little too fine and ended up letting two runs score. But I really enjoyed innings two through seven.
After that first inning, Bryan Woo absolutely locked it down. 79 of his 80 pitches today were fastballs, but it worked because now that he added a cutter three games ago, he’s got three different-looking fastballs, and they’re all great. He retired 16 in a row, ending the streak with this absolute pantsing of Jeremy Peña, showing off the sinker and cutter.
There’s a lot of discussion about managing Bryan Woo’s workload, but if he can keep getting through six innings while only throwing 80 pitches, I don’t think it’s such a big deal. It was a decisive victory in today’s competition for the Sun Hat Award for noteworthy individual contribution to a game. (Geno’s three walks are the only thing that comes close.)
Offensively, the Mariners made an adjustment after the first inning too, and they managed to work deeper into counts against Framber Valdez. They were well prepared for his sinker/curveball/changeup combo that has him consistently leading the league in ground-ball rate. Rather than roll over on pitches or swing through them, they made decent contact. I made a little chart of their PAs against Valdez.
Six ground balls on 17 balls-in-play will usually work against Framber Valdez, especially when you’re supplementing it with—for the Mariners—not striking out that much. And they did manage to score twice, on five hits. José Caballero even added to the fun with two stolen bases. He did, however, step on his own hand, causing the trainer to come out and stop the bleeding. There’s a metaphor in there, but it’s late and the game put me in a sour mood.
But then the bullpen came in with an extremely Astros Bullpen performance. All of Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris, and Ryan Presly had unbelievably nasty stuff but poor command. Abreu’s first pitch caused Cabby to have to spin out of the box to avoid getting hit in the face. Neris hit Ty France with a pitch that ricocheted to get home plate umpire Pat Hoburg (the one umpire we like!) in the jaw. Neris then walked two more, including several wild pitches, one of which allowed Ty to advance a base. But he managed to get out of the bases-loaded-no-outs jam, though I thought his celebration was a bit much given that it was a jam entirely of his own making—can’t even blame the defense. Pressly then issued a walk too but locked down the save. That’s Astros baseball. You’ve seen this game before.
The Mariners have been on a roll lately. And they played well again today, especially considering the quality of competition. But if you tune in to see the Mariners try to take three in a row in Houston, you’re playing with fire.