Mariners 7, Astros 6
(Houston, TX) Everything has gone the way of the Seattle Mariners over the last few weeks. Not only have the Mariners played their best baseball of the season, but the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros have struggled, allowing the M’s to fight their way back into the AL West race. Of course, the Mariners deserve some of the credit for the Astros recent struggles as Seattle was looking to sweep Houston in the finale of their three-game series on Sunday. Breakfast and baseball began what would be a happy day for fans in the PNW as Seattle dug deep after losing Emerson Hancock to hang on to a 7-6 win and their first sweep of the Astros since 2018.
Once again it would be Julio Rodriguez getting on base and creating problems for Houston right out of the gate. A leadoff double by Julio began the inning as his 30th two-bagger of the season put a runner in scoring position immediately. After Eugenio Suarez struck out, J-Rod too third on a wild pitch by Hunter Brown, who really struggled in this one for Houston. Ty France also struck out for the second out, but with Teoscar Hernandez at the plate, Brown made another mistake that gifted the Mariners a run. A second wild pitch allowed Julio to score and make it 1-0 Seattle. Teo and Mike Ford then each drew a walk to put a couple runners on with two outs. Seattle carried over their two-out success from Saturday into Sunday’s finale. Dominic Canzone pulled a double into right field for his fifth double of the year. Hernandez scored while Ford got the stop sign at third and the lead was 2-0 for the Mariners.
Emerson Hancock followed with a fairly calm bottom of the 1st and Seattle would add on for their young starter. A leadoff single in the top of the 2nd by Josh Rojas and his seventh stolen base of the year looked like it would be wasted as he remained on second with two outs. Hunter Brown would make a big mistake, this time in the strike zone as he hung a slider to Eugenio Suarez. Geno got every bit of it, crushing his 18th home run of the season 426-feet for two more Mariner runs. Seattle quickly had a 4-0 lead and were rolling.
Hancock only allowed one Astro to reach base in the bottom of the 2nd and once again Seattle tacked on some more offense in the top of the 3rd. Dominic Canzone’s second double of the game and sixth of the season really got the inning started with one out. A dropped pop up on the infield that for some reason was ruled a hit for Dylan Moore put runners on first and second. Josh Rojas couldn’t cash in on the RBI opportunity but also avoided the double play as he it a grounder to Jose Altuve at second and the Astros retired Moore at second. With runners on the corners and two outs, Rojas swiped his second bag of the game and eighth of the season to put two runners in scoring position. Brian O’Keefe recorded his first hit of the season and second of his career and this one was the biggest. A hard grounder stayed fair down the left field line past Alex Bregman at third. Canzone and Rojas both scored easily as O’Keefe reached second base with his first double of the season and the M’s continued to hit with two outs as they extended their lead to 6-0.
Things began to go south for the Mariners after that. Emerson Hancock had to leave the game due to a shoulder strain. That meant both bullpens took over for their teams in the 3rd and Tayler Saucedo was the first man up for the Mariners but he did not have his best stuff. Back-to-back singles by Jeremy Peña and Jose Altuve put a couple of runners on and then Saucedo hit Bregman to load the bases with nobody out. The scariest hitter for the Astros in Yordan Alvarez made his way to the plate. While Saucedo was able to keep the ball in the yard, Alvarez did pull a grounder into right field for a base hit. Two runners scored to get Houston on the board, trailing 6-2. With runners on first and second, Yainer Diaz shot his 18th double of the season to right to score Bregman and make it 6-3. That would be it for Saucedo as Scott Servais pulled the lefty and went to Trent Thornton with runners on second and third with nobody out. Thornton was able to get Chas McCormick to pop out to Dylan Moore at short and struck out Jon Singleton for two outs with runners on second and third. Unfortunately, Thornton couldn’t escape the inning unscathed. Mauricio Dubón yanked a grounder by Eugenio Suarez and down the left field line. Both runners scored on Dubón’s 20th double of the season. All of a sudden the game was very different as the score read 6-5 in favor of the Mariners after three innings.
Houston put a threat together against Thornton in the bottom of the 4th and it could have been worse if it wasn’t for an incredible diving play by Eugenio Suarez that took a leadoff hit away from Jeremy Peña. A two-out double by Alex Bregman chased Thornton and brought in Matt Brash. Following an infield single by Yordan Alvarez, Houston had runners on the corners with two outs and the runner on third representing the tying run. Brash would make a nice play on a hard grounder off the bat of Yainer Diaz to end the inning and protect the 6-5 Mariner lead.
Parker Mushinski gave up two runs in the 9th the night before but Houston needed him to pitch the top of the 5th. Back-to-back singles by Mike Ford and Dominic Canzone welcomed Mushinski on the game as Seattle had a threat brewing to begin the 5th. Dylan Moore stayed hot by shooting one the other way into right field for a base hit to score Ford and make it 7-5. Kendall Graveman came in with one out and walked Brian O’Keefe to load the bases with the top of the order coming up. Julio would end up getting over aggressive and popped up to the catcher and Eugenio Suarez was a victim of bad luck as he hit a 105-mph line drive right at Peña at short to end the inning with the M’s leaving the bases loaded.
Isaiah Campbell was tasked with pitching the bottom of the 6th for Seattle. A one-out double for Peña had the Houston crowd getting back into the game. With Peña still on second and two outs, Alex Bregman drove his third triple to center field to score Peña and make it a one-run game at 7-6. Campbell would pitch around Alvarez to take his chances with Yainer Diaz and another strong play by Suarez at third ended the inning with Seattle still clinging to a one-run lead.
Seattle missed out on a couple of opportunities to add on to their lead but strong defense and great pitching from Andrés Muñoz put the Mariners in position to hold the lead going into the 9th. Gabe Speier came on looking for his first career save in the bottom of the 9th. Strikeouts of Yordan Alvarez and Yainer Diaz got Speier off to a tremendous start but it wouldn’t be a completely clean inning. Chas McCormick reached on an infield single to put the tying run on and brought the winning run to the plate. A long flyball by Jon Singleton stayed in the yard as Julio Rodriguez made the catch to end the game and finish off a sweep of the Astros for the Mariners by a final score of 7-6.
With Seattle (69-55) firmly back in the race in the AL West, the Mariners will conclude their ten-game road trip with a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox (49-75) in the Windy City. The M’s remain half of a game ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays for the final Wild Card spot and are now just half of a game behind Houston for the second Wild Card and second place in the AL West while trailing the division leading Texas Rangers by three games. Seattle will begin another series they should win with Luis Castillo (9-7, 3.23 ERA) on the mound in Chicago. Castillo grinded through seven innings in Kansas City in a start that Scott Servais needed him to go deep into to give the bullpen some rest. This will be another one of those starts as the bullpen pitched seven of the nine innings on Sunday. Touki Toussaint (1-5, 4.47 ERA) will be the one trying to cool a red-hot Mariner lineup when he takes the ball in the opener for the White Sox. Toussaint is not a pitcher that will go deep into a game as his season-high in innings in an outing is just six but he has given the Sox a chance to win in each of his outings. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10pm on Monday.
In 1995, Jay Buhner said, “Forget the wild card. We’re going to win the damn division.”
Don’t look now, but things are starting to look the same here in 2023. A sweep of the defending champs turned the Mariners from Wild Card team to World Series contender. This roster is designed for October. Deep, very strong pitching and a power hitting lineup with plenty of speed wins teams series in October. The bullpen is not as good without Paul Sewald, but these guys are still very good. Remember, they haven’t had J.P. Crawford for this entire road trip. Plus you add in that they have missed Robbie Ray practically all season and Marco Gonzales for most of the year and yet the rotation is still the deepest in all of baseball. Offense is going to be the key down the stretch. If Seattle can put up runs, they can win the west and make a run to the first World Series in franchise history. There is still plenty of baseball left, but as Ric Flair said, “To be the man, you have to beat the man.”
The Seattle Mariners just beat the man all around their own ballpark. This team at its best can win a World Series. Can they maintain this level of play long enough to win the division? Time will tell.
- Julio Rodriguez was named AL Player of the Week for the week of 8/14-8/20. Over that span, Julio hit .568 with four doubles and two home runs and 12 RBI with seven runs scored, five stolen bases with an OPS of 1.417
- Seattle placed SP Emerson Hancock on the 15-day IL with a shoulder strain. Recall RHP Darren McCaughan from Triple-A Tacoma.
- Seattle activates SS J.P. Crawford from 7-day concussion IL. OF Sam Haggerty optioned to Triple-A Tacoma in corresponding move.
- Dominic Canzone- 4-5, 2 2Bs, RBI, R
- Eugenio Suarez- 1-5, HR, 2 RBI, R, Defensive Wizard
- Emerson Hancock (ND, Injury)- 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO
- Yordan Alvarez- 2-4, 2 RBI, R, BB
- Alex Bregman- 2-4, 2B, 3B, RBI, R
- Hunter Brown (L, 9-9)- 2.2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO