Series Preview: Mariners at Astros
By John Burgess
SEATTLE MARINERS (7-13) VS HOUSTON ASTROS (5-13)
MINUTE MAID PARK IN HOUSTON, TEXAS
The Houston Astros have now lost three straight series, and five of their first six series of the season. Their one series win for 2013 came at the hands of the Seattle Mariners, in Seattle, on April 8-10. In that series, the Astros were shutout in Game 1 before exploding for 24 runs in the final two games. Unfortunately for the Astros, they will have to go through the meat of the Mariners’ pitching rotation this go-around.
The Seattle Mariners are having their own struggles, dropping five of their last six games to the Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers. This will be Seattle’s first trip to Minute Maid Park since the Astros swept the Mariners in an interleague matchup during the 2007 season. The Mariners are hoping that the second part of their current Texas swing turns out better than their sweep by the Rangers this past weekend.
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Game 1: Monday, April 22nd at 7:10 CT
Felix Hernandez (1-2, 2.20 ERA) vs Brad Peacock (1-1, 5.27 ERA)
“King” Felix Hernandez is one of baseball’s best pitchers. He is in his ninth season with the Mariners, and is one win shy of his 100th career victory. He consistently pitches over 230 innings per season, and strikes out hitters at a rate of over eight per nine innings. He is coming off of a No-Decision in his last start against the Tigers, allowing just four hits and no earned runs over eight innings, while striking out twelve. With a team that strikes out as much as the Astros do, you know Hernandez has to be licking his chops at this opportunity.
Brad Peacock continues to struggle with pitch efficiency, as he has not been able to pitch past the fifth inning in any of his three starts. Peacock has not pitched poorly (never allowing more than three runs in any of his starts), but he is averaging a hefty 4.67 pitches per hitter faced this season. Ideally, you would like to see that number sink closer to four pitches/hitter or less. In Peacock’s April 10th start versus the Mariners, he went five innings allowing three runs on four hits and got the win.
Game 2: Tuesday, April 23rd at 7:10 CT
Hisashi Iwakuma (2-0, 1.69 ERA) vs Bud Norris (2-2, 4.74 ERA)
The Mariners may have struck gold with Hisashi Iwakuma. Since moving him from the bullpen last season, he has gone 10-3 with a 2.10 ERA. In his four starts this season, he has allowed just five runs while striking out 18, and he is currently leading the American League in WHIP (0.52). Iwakuma mixes a good assortment of pitches (fastball, sinker, one of the best splitters in the game, slider and change up) to keep the hitters off-balanced. He will be another tough test for Astros’ hitters.
Bud Norris is coming off of the worst start of his career, going just 2/3rds of an inning while allowing six earned runs against the Oakland Athletics. Norris was strong in his previous three starts and will hope to return to form against a Mariners’ team that he has never faced.
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Game 3: Wednesday, April 24th at 1:10 CT
Joe Saunders (1-2, 4.50 ERA) vs Lucas Harrell (1-2, 4.98 ERA)
Joe Saunders has had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde season so far, going 1-0 at home with a 0.00 ERA in two starts, and 0-2 with a 11.42 ERA in his two road starts. Saunders was shelled in his last start for seven runs in 4.2 innings against Texas on Friday. In Saunders’ last start against Houston on April 8th, he shutout the Astros through 6.1 innings while allowing six hits and striking out five.
Lucas Harrell recorded his first win of the season against the Cleveland Indians on Friday. While he allowed just two runs in 5.2 innings, he also walked five for the second time this season. Harrell does not need to continue to put guys on base or Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales will definitely end up hurting him in this series. Harrell has yet to work more than six innings in a game, and that is a must for a team’s number two pitcher. Let’s hope Harrell is able to stretch it out some and give this faulty bullpen some much needed rest.
- Felix Hernandez is winless in his last three starts, so Friday will mark his fourth try for his 100th career win.
- While the Astros were expecting Minute Maid Park to be friendly for Chris Carter, quite the opposite has been true. Carter is batting .065 with 18 strikeouts and a .272 OPS at home. On the road he has a .343 average with four homers and a 1.111 OPS.
- Jose Altuve has 27 hits in his first 18 games of the season. He is currently on pace for 243 hits, which would fall 19 hits short of Ichiro Suzuki‘s single-season record he set in 2004.