Judging by the first two games of their series, it would be hard to figure which team is atop the American League West and which just escaped the cellar.
The host Seattle Mariners have outscored the division-leading Houston Astros 12-1 over the past two nights. They will go for a three-game series sweep Sunday afternoon.
“It’s nice to get on the right side and win a series with the chance to sweep a really good team (Sunday),” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We are moving things here down the road in the right direction. It’s taken us a little while to get it going, and hopefully we can build off the last couple nights.”
The Mariners won the series opener 6-1 Friday, hitting four home runs off Astros ace Justin Verlander.
On Saturday, Seattle’s Logan Gilbert pitched seven scoreless innings, and Kyle Lewis, activated from the injured list earlier in the week after missing almost a year following knee surgery, homered for the second consecutive game.
So, what has changed for the Mariners?
“Honestly, I don’t have a for-sure answer,” said Seattle first baseman Ty France, who went 2 for 5 with two RBIs Saturday to raise his batting average to .342.
“I think we’ve been capable of this all year, and it’s finally coming together. I’ve told you guys before that we were close. I think these last few days showed what kind of team we really are.”
Astros manager Dusty Baker was more philosophical.
“Sometimes they pitch against you,” Baker said. “I mean, they got a lead (Friday) night and set him (Verlander) down. And then they got the lead (Saturday). We had some balls on the nose, and you know we didn’t find any holes and they found every hole.”
The Astros and Mariners have split their first eight meetings this season, and the games haven’t been close, with only one decided by as few as three runs. The Mariners have a plus-26 run differential in their four wins, while the Astros are a plus-16 in theirs.
The Astros are scheduled to send right-hander Luis Garcia (3-3, 3.38 ERA) to the mound Sunday against Mariners lefty Marco Gonzales (3-4, 3.74).
Gonzales is 2-7 with a 4.90 ERA in 12 career appearances against the Astros, including 11 starts. But he threw seven innings in an 11-1 victory against them on April 15 in the Mariners’ home opener. Gonzales allowed one run on four hits, with no walks and six strikeouts.
Garcia is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in three career starts against Seattle.
The Mariners dropped into last place in the division by losing two of three games to Oakland earlier in the week. A day off Thursday let the players ponder their position.
“I’m impressed with the group and the fact that they understand it’s time to turn up the dial a bit intensity-wise, and they have against one of the best teams in the league,” Servais said. “It’s nice to see. We needed it. Now let’s finish it off (Sunday).
–Field Level Media