Seattle Mariners (46-47) vs. Houston Astros (62-30)
MLB: Monday, July 16th, 8:10 PM ET @ Minute Maid Park
Line: Seattle +190/Houston -205 Total: 9
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The Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners will start a 3 game series in Houston on Monday. The Astros have turned themselves into one of the best, if not the best, team in the Majors at 62-30. Comfortably ahead of the second place Texas Rangers and Mariners in the AL West, it would take a collapse of monumental proportions for Houston to lose control of their division. Houston defeated the Twins on Sunday 5-3 behind 7 strong innings from Mike Fiers, fanning 11. Jose Altuve had a 2 hit day and scored a run and Norichika Aoki went 2 for 3 with 2 RBIs. Seattle is coming off a win as well as a 4 run 5th helped them defeat the White Sox in 10 innings, completing the 3 game sweep. Danny Valencia went 2 for 5 with 3 RBIs and a home run. Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz also went deep, with Cruz’s solo shot in the top of the 10th eventually deciding the game. They are now tied with the Texas Rangers 3 GB the AL Wild Card.
Right hand pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. will be on the mound for the home team Astros on Monday night, looking to bounce back from one of the worst starts of his season to close out the first half. On July 6th, he lasted just 4 1/3 innings against Toronto, allowing 9 hits. Overall, though, McCullers is having an outstanding season at 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA and 106 Ks in 16 starts, despite allowing 3 or more runs in his last 2 times out. Of Seattle batters, Robinson Cano has faced McCullers the most, batting .389 with 1 RBI in 18 ABs. Kyle Seager has also seen plenty of McCullers, batting .313 in 16 ABs with 1 RBI. Nelson Cruz is just 2 for 12 against him, and Jarrod Dyson is 1 for 7. McCullers holds a 5-2 record against the Mariners, with an outstanding 2.09 ERA in 7 starts. The Astros are led offensively by Jose Altuve (.348 BA) and George Springer (27 HR). Young star Carlos Correa leads the team with 66 RBIs.
Ariel Miranda, a lefty, gets the call for Seattle. He is 7-4 with a 4.15 ERA while carrying the weight of Seattle starters in the first half. Never missing a start, he threw 104 innings in 18 starts (AVG: 5.78 IP/GS). In 3 starts against Houston this year, though, he is 0-2 with a 5.00 ERA, (1-2, 4.32 ERA, 25 IP overall). George Springer has seen the most success off him, going 4 for 11 with all 4 hits being home runs. Carlos Beltran, Carlos Correa, Marwin Gonzalez, and Yuli Gurriel have also homered off Miranda, once each. Right fielder Ben Gamel leads the team with a .322 BA and Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano are tied with 18 home runs each. Cruz’s 72 RBIs is good for the AL lead. Seattle has won 5 of their last 6 with the sweep in Chicago, and look to maintain that momentum against the team in the AL with the best record.
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On paper, this Astros team is significantly better than the Mariners. There are guys up and down the lineup capable of causing serious damage, and they have done so against Miranda in the past. That being said, the Mariners have recovered from several injuries that have hindered them up to this point and are coming off a hard fought, come from behind, extra innings win to complete a sweep on Sunday. The extra rest from the All Star break was probably welcome for Miranda who saw a lot of use in the first half, as it was for the rest of the team. At this point in the season, the Mariners are fighting tooth and nail to stay relevant in a very competitive Wild Card race as management decides weather to buy or sell at the deadline. The Astros took 2 of 3 from the Twins over the weekend, but believe it or not I think the momentum actually favors Seattle in this case. They are playing for far more, whereas the Astros can relax a bit in this second half. McCullers showed the first signs of slowing down his last two times out just as the Mariner offense is heating up. How the Mariners play against a team as successful as the Astros will show if they have any fight left in them and if there is any chance of them making the playoffs this year. I think the Mariners will surprise everyone and steal the first game of four from the Astros.