Man, Toronto was fun. A Castillo/Munoz shutout followed by a historic 7-run comeback to sweep one of the most talented lineups in baseball. Outstanding. But the work is only getting started.
If this were Lord of the Rings, the Mariners just won the battle at Helm's Deep & must now march on Mordor. If this were Hollywood, the Mariners just won a Teen's Choice Award, but now it's time to put on nice pants and win a Golden Globe. If this was the Marvel Universe, "Starlord" Raleigh just slayed the fart-blossom, Ronan, but now it's time to go after Thanos.
On Planet Houston, there reside the villains of Major League Baseball. Cheaters, they've been. Cheaters, they are? The Astros are good... Nope, scratch that... The Astros are great. Assuming they now walk a righteous path, Houston won 106 games this year. The rat-bastards won 12 of 19 against the Mariners. Villains indeed, but do not underestimate the power of the Darkside.
So, how do our good and virtuous Mariners truly stack up?
CATCHER: CAL RALEIGH vs. MARTIN MALDONADO/CHRISTIAN VAZQUEZ
The Astros have been improved behind the plate with the addition of Vazquez at the deadline, but neither he nor defensive-only backstop Martin Maldonado are a match for the ascending stardom of Big Dumper.
FIRSTBASE: TY FRANCE vs. YULI GURRIEL
38-year old Yuli Gurriel has followed up his career-best year of 2021 with his career-worst in 22. But he can't be underestimated. Or trusted, for that matter. When he's not flipping to the back pages of his Crossword puzzle book for the answers while he thinks no one's looking, he can still put together a quality at-bat & play solid defense. That said, he's no Ty France.
SECONDBASE: ADAM FRAZIER vs. JOSE ALTUVE
Jose Altuve is no longer putting up the MVP-like numbers he posted in 2016 & 17, but when the pint-sized 32-year old isn't trying to fool cinema employees into selling him a ticket at the child's rate, unfortunately he's still crushing baseballs (300/387/533/921).
SHORTSTOP: JP CRAWFORD vs. JEREMY PENA
25-year old Jeremy Pena is coming off a banner rookie season. And although he's listed as day-to-day with a knee, he's likely to play. And if he plays and plays healthy, odds are he's going to play better than JP Crawford. So as long as he's not caught buying beer for minors (again), Pena is a problem.
THIRDBASE: EUGENIO SUAREZ vs. ALEX BREGMAN
Unlike many of his teammates, Alex Bregman hasn't regained the form he showcased pre-sign-stealing-scandal. He's still a really good player though. And of all the villains, Bregman seems the most... well... villainous. Considering he probably gains the confidence of elderly widows only to steal their social security checks, it pains me to suggest that he might have the edge over our beloved Geno. But then, I'm not an Astro. Therefore, I must be honest.
(SLIGHT) ADVANTAGE: VILLAINS
LEFT FIELD: JARRED KELENIC vs. YORDAN ALVAREZ
Don't have a lot to say about this one. So, I'll just say this. Pretty sure Alvarez steals (dirty) cable channels.
CENTERFIELD: JULIO RODRIGUEZ vs. CHAS MCCORMICK
Haha!! Nice try, buttholes.
RIGHTFIELD: MITCH HANIGER vs. KYLE TUCKER
Kyle Tucker worries me. Power, speed, patience, skill, the Mariners must keep the 25-year old in check. We're still waiting for one of those classic Haniger hot-streaks. But barring the miraculous return of last September's Mitch in time for Tuesday, the Astros have us here, too. Good news is: Haniger doesn't dine & dash. Not like some rightfielders in this series. Isn't that right, Kyle?
DH: CARLOS SANTANA vs. TREY MANCINI
Mancini has a higher average, a higher OPS. He's also younger & has the right kind of swing to take advantage of Houston's infamously inviting Crawford boxes. But Mancini also goes through his kids' Halloween Candy & takes all the Snickers. Plus, there's no way he's as clutch as our Big House Cat.
The real matchup of this series. As good as the Mariners rotation is, the Astros might be better. Houston had the best ERA in the AL this season--nearly a half run better than second best. 39-year old Justin Verlander is somehow as good as he's ever been. The Cy Young front runner will be rested and ready to pitch twice, if needed. All Framber Valdez did was set a MLB record for most consecutive quality starts this year. And Mariner-nemesis Lance McCullers Jr. is back and healthy in time for the playoff push. Then, there's the nasty Cristian Javier. They're loaded, let's face it. They also buy ten-thousand dollars worth of Girl Scouts Cookies each from Dusty Baker's granddaughter, so that she easily wins the trip to Epcot Center without having to lift a finger. And it's bullsh*t.
The Astros added Will Smith at the deadline to bolster their bullpen. They will also be able to lean on quality starters Jake Odorizzi & Luis Garcia, who couldn't make their playoff rotation. Their pen is good, really good, but I'm going to type it. We're better. Plus, our guys don't spend their nights driving around town smashing in innocent people's mailboxes.
Houston is the favorite. This very article suggests they have more advantages than disadvantages when weighed against our Mariners. But you know something? The heroes always win.
ADVANTAGE: MARINERS IN 5