The last time the Mariners won a four-game series over the Astros was in 2018, when they swept Houston with improbable feats like a game-tying Ryon Healy home run, defeating the four-headed monster of the Astros starting rotation that at the time included Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, and four consecutive saves from Edwin Díaz.
This team is built a little differently, to say the least. The Mariners didn’t sweep the series, but fought the Astros in yesterday’s lone loss behind rookie starter Bryan Woo. Instead of relying on one wizard closer, the Mariners mixed-and-matched their back-end bullpen options between Andrés Muñoz, Matt Brash, and Paul Sewald. They were also backed all series long by excellent young starting pitching and their staff ace, with today’s start a dominant statement from a younger pitcher who often gets overlooked in Seattle’s bright young rotation.
Logan Gilbert followed up last week’s complete game shutout effort with another strong performance, showcasing yet another new pitch mix. Today Gilbert led with the pitch that’s becoming the standout in his arsenal, the sharp slider, throwing it almost 40% of the time and racking up nine whiffs on the pitch. While initially using his curveball to steal first-pitch strikes, Gilbert transitioned into using it as a putaway pitch as he faced the Astros later in the game, getting each of his final three outs in the seventh inning on the curve—an easy groundout and two strikeouts, giving him an incredible 61% CSW% on the pitch for the day.
The only mar on Gilbert’s outing was a solo home run to Maldonado to lead off the sixth, a mistake pitch fastball that landed in a part of the plate where even the struggling Maldonado could tag it out. Other than that, “Walter” was in complete control today. He struck out six hitters while walking none, but the most impressive part of his statline is that seven innings pitched, as he got the aggressive, contact-heavy Astros to make weak contact and quick outs, saving the bullpen as he worked deep into the game. Gilbert’s only strain came early in the game, when he had to throw 19 pitches to work around a pair of base hits, although he was helped out by Jeremy Peña, who grounded into a double play off the slider to end the inning. Other than that, Gilbert executed his pitch plan well, needing fewer than 10 pitches in three of his seven innings.
The Mariners gave Gilbert just enough run support to get him the win, once again using a big fourth inning to score the majority of their runs and taking advantage of a couple miscues by the Astros. Julio led off the inning by reaching when Jeremy Peña couldn’t handle a routine ground ball and promptly swiped second, although he would have gotten there anyway when Ty France got hit by a pitch. That set up Julio to score off a Teoscar Hernández single that turned into a double thanks to a poor throw from Mauricio Dubón, putting runners at second and third with one out for Jarred Kelenic.
Jarred had been up earlier in the game and ground out weakly on a changeup from Astros pitcher Brandon Bielak. Bielak tried to get him again on the changeup, but this time, Jarred was ready:
Jarred turned that hit into a double, because of course he did, although it wasn’t exactly softly-hit, at 101 mph EV. Sadly, Cal Raleigh just missed a homer that would have broken this game wide open, and the Mariners ended the inning without scoring more as Peña was able to get to a well-placed Mike Ford hit that would have been a single if anyone other than Mike Ford was running. Ah, the duality of Mike Ford.
This remains an imperfect and frustrating offense. The Mariners again squandered chances to score more, leaving J.P. Crawford standing on third base in the fifth, and blowing a two-on, no-out opportunity in the sixth when Rafael Montero came in to continue torturing the team that couldn’t unlock his potential. Montero served up three straight outs on the changeup the Mariners offense had been trying to master all game, two of them coming on a Jarred Kelenic GIDP. One step forward, two steps back.
However, as the young offense has struggled over and over again this season, the pitching has held down the fort, as was the case today. Logan Gilbert’s shutdown performance was followed by a dominant Matt Brash outing where he showcased how good he can be when he has his feel for the zone, retiring Peña and Jake Meyers on three pitches each on an easy groundout and flyout, respectively, and then striking out Martin Maldonado looking on three perfectly-placed pitches. More of this Matt Brash, please and thank you.
Paul Sewald came on to save the game, walking Kyle Tucker but striking out Bregman looking and getting Abreu swinging to end it and secure the series win, sending the Mariners into the All-Star Break with three straight series wins, including one against the best team in baseball and one against a hated divisional rival. The team may still be imperfect, but the vibes currently are immaculate.