AL West-leading Astros host ascending Mariners
For a span of nearly two months, the Houston Astros have done little more than tread water, and they capped a nine-game trip Sunday with a walk-off loss to the San Diego Padres.
The Astros closed the road trip at 4-5 and are 25-24 since concluding a six-game winning streak against the Oakland Athletics on July 7.
And while the Athletics have been unable to make up ground during the Astros’ extended run of mediocrity — Oakland had dropped 14 of 20 and was swept by the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend — the Seattle Mariners have come on strong.
The Mariners (75-62), whom the Astros (79-57) will host Monday night in the opener of a three-game series, claimed a 10-4 road victory in 11 innings over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday to draw within 4 1/2 games of Houston in the American League West.
After spending most of this season concerned with fending off Oakland, the Astros return home with the Mariners bearing down on them as the stretch run for the pennant commences.
“We’re fortunate to be where we are because they’re losing and we’re losing,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of the Athletics. “The only team that seems like it’s winning is Seattle. But it’s time to go home and regroup.”
Right-hander Lance McCullers jR. (10-4, 3.20 ERA) will start for the Astros in the series opener. He worked five scoreless innings against the Mariners in his previous start, allowing four hits and three walks while recording three strikeouts.
McCullers bookended scoreless outings during his six appearances in August, going 2-2 with a 3.12 ERA and 39 strikeouts over 34 2/3 innings last month. He is 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA over three starts against Seattle this season and 9-3 with a 2.78 ERA over 17 career starts against the Mariners.
Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (7-7, 4.12) has the starting assignment for the Mariners on Monday in what will be his sixth start of the season against Houston. He did not factor into the decision of his previous start on Aug. 31, tossing seven shutout innings while allowing four hits and one walk with four strikeouts in a 4-0 home victory over the Astros.
Kikuchi was 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA and .958 opponent OPS in the previous nine starts before his rebound against Houston. He is 1-2 with a 4.71 ERA against the Astros this season and 1-4 with a 5.50 ERA over 10 career starts against Houston.
The Mariners completed a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks and extended their winning streak to five games, with the first two victories coming in shutout fashion against the Astros. Seattle is 17-8 over its last 25 games and, despite a minus-46 run differential, appears poised to remain in the playoff picture.
The Mariners, who got a pair of three-run home runs from third baseman Kyle Seager on Saturday, scored seven runs in the 11th inning Sunday to move within three games of Boston for the second AL wild-card spot.
“It’s really important for us to get our offense going,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “That’s what’s going to allow us to stay in this thing and keep a streak going like we’ve got right now.”
— Field Level Media