(Seattle, WA) Returning home for the final seven games of the 2023 season, the Seattle Mariners had plenty of business to take care of to try to fight their way into the postseason. Being swept by Texas over the weekend added even more weight onto this three-game series with the Houston Astros. Sitting just half of a game behind Houston for the final Wild Card, the M’s had the perfect guy on the mound as Luis Castillo went up against Justin Verlander in the opening game of the series in a battle of the aces. One hiccup inning derailed Castillo’s outing while Verlander coasted almost the entire game as the M’s dropped their fourth straight, falling to Houston 5-1.
Luis Castillo followed up a strong 1st inning with a disastrous 2nd. A leadoff gapper by José Abreu was misplayed by Julio Rodriguez and allowed Abreu to record his first triple of the season and just his 17th career triple. Castillo kept Abreu at third and recorded the next two outs and looked like he was about to get out of it. Then things turned real ugly, real fast. A line drive into center field by Mauricio Dubón would sit down just in front of Julio for a two-out RBI single to give Houston the first run of the game. Martín Maldonado kept the inning going with a shot to the wall in left center. Dubón was able to score from first with his speed as Maldonado stopped at second for his 12th double of the season, making it 2-0. Jose Altuve kept things going with a base hit to center to score Maldonado and make it 3-0. After being just one out away from hanging up a zero, Castillo had lost control and Houston had a strong lead.
In the 3rd inning, the morale officially died for the Mariners. Yordan Alvarez hit his 30th home run of the season to make it 4-0, but it was the home half of the inning that killed the crowd. After not having a baserunner in the first two innings, Dominic Canzone singled with one out to get something going. Josh Rojas also singled and J.P. Crawford walked to load the bases with one out. Against a pitcher like Justin Verlander, you only get so many opportunities to score runs and this was a golden opportunity for Seattle. With Julio Rodriguez coming to the plate, it felt like the Mariners were beginning to fight back. A punch to the gut killed that feeling. J-Rod hit into a 6-4-3 double play to not only fail to score a run, but end the inning and the rally overall. What felt like positive momentum ended up staying at a 4-0 deficit for the M’s.
Kyle Tucker added on for Houston with his 29th home run of the season in the 6th as the Astros lead grew to 5-0. It stayed there going into the bottom of the 9th as Verlander was still on the mound looking for a complete game shutout. Josh Rojas denied that bid with his 17th double of the season to begin the inning. Verlander was pulled after 8+ innings of three hit ball with one walk and eight strikeouts. He would lose the shutout as Rojas ended up scoring after a groundout by Crawford and a sacrifice fly by Julio. 5-1 would end up being the final as Bryan Abreu struck out Cal Raleigh to end the game as Seattle had their fourth straight loss and a one and a half game deficit to Houston.
Seattle (84-72) now must win the next two games of this series to avoid having their season put on life support. Toronto was off on Monday and Texas earned a win in Anaheim. The M’s trail Texas in the AL West race by four games while trailing Toronto by three games and Houston by a game and a half. George Kirby (11-10, 3.58 ERA) needs to break out of his slump in this one. Since losing a complete game against Baltimore, Kirby has still been good, but quite as good as he was in the first half. The young righty has allowed 22 runs in his last 34 innings pitched. Cristian Javier (9-4, 4.64 ERA) has also been a bit inconsistent this season as he takes the ball for Houston. Javier has really struggled when it comes to the home run ball. He has allowed 25 home runs this season. First pitch is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:05pm
Justin Verlander (W, 12-8)- 8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO
Yordan Alvarez- 2-4, HR, RBI, R
Martín Maldonado- 2-3, 2B, RBI, R, BB
Josh Rojas- 2-3, 2B, R
Luis Castillo (L, 14-8)- 6 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO