The Mariners, now winners of seven in their last ten, have jumped the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West. After winning Sunday, this marked their third straight series win over teams above .500. The pitching has been no short of pure dominance as of late, and in most of their recent success, the offense has been present as well. Julio will represent the city of Seattle Monday night in the Home Run Derby, and himself, Luis Castillo and George Kirby are all on the American League roster for the mid-summer classic, the 93rd All-Star Game, inside of T-Mobile Park Tuesday night.
Before looking ahead to the break, as well as the beginning of the second half, here is an in-depth look at all four games in Houston.
All-Star George Kirby made was on the mound Thursday before representing Seattle and the American League Tuesday. He faced Dominican-born Ronel Blanco, who was making his sixth start of the season.
Fireworks early for the M’s, as Eugenio Suarez rode a middle-middle slider deep into the Crawford Boxes for a two-run homer to give Seattle the early lead. Fast forward one inning, and with one down in the third, leadoff hitter J.P. Crawford lined a solo home run just beyond the short porch in right field. It was his eighth dinger of the season, and he is now just one shy of his career season-high.
George Kirby was rock solid Thursday night. His only threat in the Houston lineup was Corey Julks who went 3-3 with an RBI, but George was able to shut down the rest of the Astros throughout his 17th start of 2023: six plus innings, three strikeouts and only one earned run.
The M’s added to their advantage in the seventh and the eighth. An RBI single by the Big Dumper and then Geno’s second homer of the ballgame had Seattle up 5-1. The bullpen came in and did their job, as Seattle was able to start the series on the right note with a victory, bringing their record back to an even .500 with three to go before the break.
Friday showcased three-time All-Star Luis “La Piedra” Castillo against righty Hunter Brown.
Alex Bregman and the Astros got on the board first in the third inning after a double, an error by Eugenio Suarez at third and then an RBI single. This one run deficit for Seattle was short-lasting thanks to a ginormous M’s top of the fourth.
The Mariners hung a touchdown, extra point, and a safety on six hits in the top of the fourth. A nine-spot, thanks to RBIs from five different batters. Kolten Wong got it going with a sharp base hit to left, which scored Jarred Kelenic. Two batters later and two-time All-Star Julio Rodriguez singled through the four-hole for two more runs.
This pushed Hunter Brown out of the ball game early as the M’s were onto face the Houston ‘Pen… and they didn’t stop producing post-Brown’s exit. Cal Raleigh grounded into a force out for an RBI, and Jarred Kelenic walked with the bases loaded for another.
At this point it was 5-1 Seattle with Mike Ford digging in with the bases loaded. He missed a grand slam by a few feet as his double to right cleared the bases. Kolten Wong followed Ford with a double into the right field corner, but the inning ended as he tried to stretch his extra base hit into a triple. Nevertheless, it was Seattle’s biggest offensive inning of the season and a 1-0 deficit turned into a 9-1 lead in the blink of an eye.
From there, it was smooth sailing. Castillo was able to earn his sixth victory of the season after going seven strong innings, allowing just the one run on three strikeouts.
Looking to keep the hot streak rolling, it was Rookie Bryan Woo against Astros’ All-Star Framber Valdez.
Houston matched their run total over the first two games in the first inning Saturday evening. RBI base hits by Kyle Tucker and Alex Bregman gave Houston a 2-0 lead after one.
Following the first, Woo was absolute nails throughout the remainder of his start, and Seattle was able to eventually tie this game at two over the next three innings.
After Jose Caballero singled in the third, he proceeded to steal second and third on two pitches and then scored on a bloop base hit by J.P. Crawford. In the fourth, Cabby was the hero again as his base-hit up the middle with two outs scored Teoscar Hernandez to even the score at 2-2.
Woo, after giving up two runs in the first inning, retired 14 straight over the next five innings. He exited after six, striking out four, and not allowing a hit since Alex Bregman’s early RBI single.
Then, it was déjà vu from the dreaded Washington series for the M’s in the top of the eighth. Ty France was hit by a pitch, Teo and Geno walked, and the bases were loaded with no outs. As Hector Neris was struggling to find any sort of control, he then got pinch-hitter Cal Raleigh to strikeout swinging, pinch-hitter Mike Ford to foul out and Caballero to K swinging. It was another bases-loaded, no-out failure for Seattle, as what could have, should have been a game-changing inning turned out to be a complete disaster.
Rightfully so, in the bottom of the eighth, Houston made the M’s pay. Arguably Seattle’s best reliver Andres Munoz faced Martin Maldonado, (who was zero for his last 20) with one out. Maldonado smacked a hanging slider into the Crawford Boxes in left to give the ‘Stros the lead.
Ryan Pressly, closer for the Astros, got Kelenic to ground out, J.P. to pop put and Ty France to fly out to end what should have been Seattle’s third-straight win over last year’s World Series champs. It was a 3-2 defeat, as the M’s looked to bounce back for the final game of the first half Sunday.
The thin man, Logan Gilbert took the ball for Seattle Sunday. Coming off of a complete game shutout in San Francisco, Gilbert looked to put the M’s back above .500 in the last game before the break. His competition was righty Brandon Bielak, who had just shutout the Colorado Rockies on the fourth.
After three innings of scoreless baseball, Seattle got to Bielak, as well as capitalized on a few Houston defensive miscues in the top of the fourth.
Julio reached on an error by SS Jeremy Pena, and then proceeded to steal second base, his 21st of the season. Ty France was then hit by a pitch for the 17th time of the season a few pitches later. Teoscar Hernandez, following France, laced a double into the left center gap to score Rodriguez. Teo would’ve been tagged out at second if it wasn’t for a bobble by Houston’s Mauricio Dubon.
With two on, and now a 1-0 lead, Jarred Kelenic lined a full-count changeup into the right center gap that scored both France and Teo, putting the M’s up by three.
Other than giving up a solo home run to Mariner-killer Martin Maldonado in the sixth, Gilbert almost mirrored his performance from his prior start. He earned his seventh victory of the season after cruising through seven innings, allowing only three hits, while striking out six.
Matt Brash and Paul Sewald helped Logan close the door Sunday, as Seattle took three of four from the Astros, winning 3-1 Sunday before heading home for the break.
The M’s sit at a record of 45-44, now a game up on the Angels and just four back from the second American League wild card spot.
On Monday, Julio Rodriguez (ranked No. 7) will face off against two-time champion Pete Alonso (ranked No. 2) of the New York Mets in the first round of the 2023 Home Run Derby. Remember, it was rookie J-Rod who eliminated Alonso with 31 home runs in the semifinal round in 2022. Julio lost to former-Washington National Juan Soto in the finals but looks to be crowned as champion Monday in front of his home crowd.
Tuesday will showcase the top talent around the league in the 93rd annual battle of the American and National Leagues in the All-Star Game. Luis Castillo will be making his third All-Star appearance (first with Seattle), Julio Rodriguez will make his second, and starter George Kirby will be in uniform for his first career All-Star appearance.
Following the break, the Tigers will be in town. They no-hit the Toronto Blue Jays Saturday, but are still more than ten games below .500, and rank second-to-last in team batting average (.231), and in the bottom third in the majors with a 4.47 team ERA. Detroit is currently in third place in the American League Central, trailing the first-place Cleveland Guardians by 5.5 games.
American League West Standings as of Sunday afternoon:
- 1.Texas Rangers (52-39)
- 2.Houston Astros (50-41), 2.0 GB
- 3.Seattle Mariners (45-44), 6.0 GB
- 4.Los Angeles Angels (45-46), 7.0 GB
- 5.Oakland Athletics (25-67), 27.5 GB