Mariners 2, Astros 0
(Houston, TX) Hitting with runners in scoring position is crucial to winning a baseball game. I know you all are thinking, “Well duh.” Yes it is very obvious, but on Friday night we learned something that isn’t too obvious. You don’t have to hit with runners in scoring position to win a baseball game. For the Seattle Mariners, opportunities were plentiful with runners in scoring position in game one of their three-game series with the Houston Astros. In fact, Seattle had 17 at-bats with runners in scoring position. They did not record a single hit in those situations. What they did do, is play some solid defense, minus a bumpy 9th, and got a strong outing from Texas native, Bryce Miller. A couple of long balls is all the M’s needed to climb a game in the standings by beating the defending champs 2-0.
While this was actually Bryce Miller’s second major league start in Texas, this one was closer to home. Miller grew up an Astros fan and in front of family and friends did exactly what he did when he faced his childhood team in Seattle. Miller filled up the strike zone and kept his pitch count in very good shape throughout the outing. Miller only got in trouble once when Houston put runners on second and third with two outs and he would strikeout Jon Singleton to get out of that jam. Great defense behind him also helped as Eugenio Suarez was able to begin a tricky double play and Jose Caballero was able to read a couple tricky bounces as well. Miller was able to go 6 1/3 innings of scoreless ball with just two hits and one walk allowed while striking out two. Miller did his part and left it up to the offense to get the job done.
Julio Rodriguez evolved from red hot to scorched earth hot on Friday. After recording a base hit to lead off the game, Julio made it eight straight at-bats with a hit in the top of the 3rd. J.P. France made one of his few mistakes when he tried to get his cutter to the outer half, but instead left it right on the inner third and J-Rod didn’t miss. A mammoth home run onto the train tracks high up at Minute Maid Park was Julio’s 21st home run of the season and gave the M’s a 1-0 lead.
While frustration continued to build as guys like Julio (who had his streak of consecutive at-bats with a hit end at nine), Teoscar Hernandez, Jose Caballero continued to be left on base, the lead continued to be protected by Miller as he tried to make one run enough to get the win. He wouldn’t have to settle for just one however. In the top of the 6th with the bases empty and one out, Seattle would get their second solo home run of the night. Mike Ford battled with J.P. France and on the eighth pitch of the AB chased a curveball below the zone. Ford was able to show off his golf game as he dug it out and sent a sky high flyball into the right field stands for his 12th home run of the season. Just like that, Seattle’s lead was doubled to 2-0.
Two runs would have to be enough for the Mariners as Andrés Muñoz came on to pitch the bottom of the 9th with the two-run lead. Muñoz would get a lot of soft contact but the inning would end up being stressful anyway. An infield single by Jose Altuve began the inning and brought Alex Bregman to the plate representing the tying run. Bregman smoked a grounder to Eugenio Suarez at third who quickly got the ball to Josh Rojas at second before Rojas dropped the ball on the transfer to cost the Mariners a surefire double play. With a runner on first and one out, Seattle nemesis Yordan Alvarez came to the plate as the tying run. Flashbacks to Yordan’s walk off home run in game one of the 2022 ALDS played in the minds of Mariner fans as the big lefty walked to the plate. A passed ball allowed Bregman to move up to second and took away the double play. Alvarez would also register soft contact with a grounder the other way. Jose Caballero could not make the backhanded play and everyone was safe as Houston had runners on the corners with one out and the winning run at the plate now. Yainer Diaz would step into the batter’s box while Jake Meyers ran for Alvarez at first representing the tying run. Muñoz put the kibosh on the Houston rally by getting Diaz to roll over on a slider off the plate and hit it back up the middle. Rojas scooped up the ball right by second base, stepped on the bag, and threw Diaz out at first for the 4-3 game ending double play. The M’s were able to celebrate with a victory dance and a 2-0 win.
With the win and losses by Toronto, Houston, and Texas, Seattle (67-55) gained a game on everyone and now sit in the 3rd AL Wild card spot half a game ahead of the Blue Jays. The Mariners are now 2 1/2 games back of Houston (70-53) for the second Wild Card and for second in the division and just five games behind the Rangers in the AL West. Seattle has the opportunity to win the season series against the Astros for the first time since 2018 if they can win one of their remaining five game with Houston. They will look to do that Saturday in game two at 4:10pm. Logan Gilbert (10-5, 3.80 ERA) is coming off a bumpy outing in Kansas City where he gave up four runs just 4 1/3 innings as the Mariners lost their first Gilbert start since June 28th. The last Astro pitcher to beat the Mariners in Framber Valdez (9-8, 3.31 ERA) will get the nod for Houston in game two. Valdez is making his first start in Houston since he threw a no-hitter on August 1st. Since that no-no, Valdez has allowed 10 runs in 14 2/3 innings with just seven strikeouts.
- Bryce Miller (W, 8-4)- 6.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO
- Julio Rodriguez- 4-5, HR, RBI, R, 2 SB
- Mike Ford- 1-4, HR, RBI, R
- Yainer Diaz- 2-4, 2B
- J.P. France (L, 9-4)- 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO