MLB Series Of Weekend: Mariners At Astros
The Seattle Mariners were projected to finish first in the American League West Division this season and the Houston Astros either four or last. But there Houston is in mid-June atop the division. However, the Astros are in the midst of their first major slump of the season, bringing a seven-game winning streak into their series with the Mariners.
This skid started with a home loss to Baltimore on June 4 and the Houston was swept three in Toronto and three in Chicago by the White Sox. So Thurday’s day off came at a good time. On bright spot of Wednesday’s 4-1 loss was the performance by rookie pitcher Vincent Velasquez, one of the Astros’ top prospects who was called up eralier this week. He pitched five scoreless innings and is the fifth pitcher to make a debut with at least five scoreless innings this season.
George Springer was 5-for-5 from the leadoff spot on Wednesday. The Astros’ Nos. 2 through 4 hitters combined to go 0-for-13. Springer is the third player ever to pull off this very specific feat: 5-for-5 or better with no extra base hits, no runs and no RBIs, all while batting leadoff. He joins Matty Alou and Pete Rose who both did it in 1970. Springer is also the first player in the modern era (since 1900) to have at least five hits in a game where his teammates combined for two or fewer.
Expect a big crowd on Friday because it will be the debut in Houston of the majors’ top prospect, shortstop Carlos Correa. He was called up Monday and is the youngest player in the majors at age 20. The first pick in the 2012 draft was 4-for-12 with a homer and three RBIs in the series vs. Chicago.
“I can’t wait to be out there, man,” Correa said. “The fans have been rooting for me and they’ve been wanting me to get to Houston, and I can’t wait for that moment to step in Minute Maid Park for the first time in my big league career and to just look out there in the crowd and see the great fans we have in Houston.”
Correa will have an entourage with him in Houston. His parents, siblings and his agent were in Chicago for his Major League debut, and he said he’ll be joined in Houston by, among others, his personal hitting coach, defensive coach, trainer, strength and conditioning coach and other friends from Puerto Rico. Team Correa is more than a one-man show.
The Mariners have lost six of seven games to the Astros this season, including a four-game sweep in Houston from April 30-May 3. Houston is a dog for Game 1 but will be a slight series favorite.
Mariners RHP Felix Hernandez at Astros LHP Brett Oberholtzer: Despite spotty command, Hernandez beat the Rays in his last outing to halt the Mariners’ seven-game skid. He allowed one run, struck out six and walked three over seven innings. The Astros missed Hernandez (9-2, 0.96 ERA) the first two times they faced the Mariners, but will face him for the first time since 2014, when Hernandez went 1-1 with a 1.73 ERA in four starts against Houston. Oberholtzer hasn’t been able to pitch six innings in any of his three starts this season. The lefty has still not found his groove since recovering from a nagging blister that sidelined him for most of May. Seattle is a -160 favorite for this one at BetOnline.
Mariners LHP Mike Montgomery at Astros Collin McHugh: Montgomery pitched well enough to win his last start — he allowed two runs over seven innings — but was unfortunate to go up against Rays right-hander Chris Archer. The result was a 3-1 loss at Safeco Field. McHugh has experienced trouble with home runs over the past month. McHugh has given up 10 homers since May 1, five of which have come in his past four outings.
Mariners LHP Roenis Elias at Astros RHP Lance McCullers: Elias allowed one run over six innings against the Indians to earn the win in his last start, but he wasn’t so successful against the Astros on May 1, surrendering two home runs in a loss. The 21-year-old rookie McCullers has been dazzling in his first five career starts, especially in the last two. After throwing a complete game to beat Baltimore on June 3, he held the White Sox to three runs in seven innings Monday.
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