The astros show up in the biggest game yet

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The Houston Astros swept a key road series in Seattle this weekend to start the second half, stopping the Mariners’ momentum in its tracks.

It would have been forgivable to hear that the Houston Astros weren’t celebrating the all-star break yet. Sure, they were 59-32, but they gave up their last streak before the break in disappointing fashion against the Oakland A’s at home. As well, Yordan AlvarezThe hand injury kept fans from getting too excited and it’s stillas he did not start in the series finale this weekend.

Nonetheless, the team quickly responded to this small dose of adversity by sweeping a double against the Yankees to start the second half, then marching to Seattle and sweeping a crucial three-game set. They did so amid a hostile sold-out crowd and a Mariners team that entered the weekend having won its last 14 games.

For most of the year, the Astros had a 10+ game lead in the AL West standings, and until the Mariners’ winning streak began, it looked like winning the division would be the cake walk for reign over all the steps of the cake. Going to face a team that’s 10 games behind in the standings for 3 games in the second half of July doesn’t sound that intense, but for the Astros, 2022 has been such a success that it was arguably the most crucial series ever. they had so far. They certainly didn’t disappoint either.

Offense

The Astros did what they had to do offensively this weekend, making 16 points over 3 games (5.3 per game). They had a collective .279 batting average and hit 5 homers, smashing the ball out in Games 1 and 3 while winning more than one pitching duel in Game 2. Martin Maldonado continued his scorching July (.889 OPS this month) with 4 RBIs. , including a home run in game 1 and a 2-run bloop single to provide some insurance in the final. Jose Altuve hit a home run to start both Game 1 and Game 3 of the series, and in Game 3 Jeremy Pena followed it up with his own home run, making it back-to-back home runs to start the match against Robbie Ray, winner of Cy Young.

The Astros won Game 2 thanks in part to some RBI doubles from Kyle Tucker and Yuli Gurriel respectively in the 4th inning. In Game 3, Mauricio Dubon threw an RBI ground rule double, which helped set the stage for Maldonado’s first RBI this game and another hit from Altuve. That streak was part of the reason Robbie Ray only lasted until the third moto of Sunday’s start; the Astros turned him on for 10 hits and 6 runs to secure the sweep.

The team are very cautious with Yordan Alvarez’s hand injury as he only started in games 1 and 2 which could be a source of concern in the future given how he is recovering . Either way, he looked great in his shortened playing time, going 2-5 with 2 walks, including a left-left home run against Marco Gonzales in Game 1. The Astros head straight back to Oakland on Monday, and if he’s out of the lineup for a second straight day, the coaching staff will no doubt be left wondering if he really made a full recovery last week.

Throwing and defending

Once again, Houston outscored its opponent this series, allowing 8 points (2.7 per game). The starters worked at a 2.29 ERA, while the relievers were slightly more shaky at 3.68. Jose Urquidy beat his pitch-to-contact counterpart Marco Gonzales in the series opener on Friday, going 6 innings and allowing just one run on 4 hits, 3 strikeouts and 2 walks. The only dent the Mariners could make on the scoreboard against him was a home run from Ty France to lead the 6th inning. It’s encouraging to see Urquidy going from strength to strength after a difficult start to the season. he left it all on the mound again, throwing 105 pitches on that outing.

Pitching was the story all around Game 2, as Justin Verlander, one of this generation’s most accomplished pitchers, took on Logan Gilbert, one of baseball’s brightest future stars. Verlander was a beast on the mound, enjoying everything else he’s been given recently due to Houston’s deep rotation, going 7 innings and allowing 1 run on 9 strikeouts. He turned back time in an epic 7th round, knocking out Cal Raleigh and Sam Haggerty to emerge unscathed from a tough jam, to top it all off with a give goosebumps reaction on the way back to the canoe. He hit 99mph multiple times in that run, something the 39-year-old hasn’t done in several seasons.

Framber Valdez has been a real ace this season, and he has extended his quality starts streak at 4 p.m. on Sunday. He nearly lost that streak in Round 7, which was pretty unfortunate considering how fluid the first 6 were. However, he couldn’t survive the 7th after giving up a 2-point triple and an RBI double to Sam Haggerty and JP Crawford respectively. Although he allowed 8 hits, Valdez still scored 8 strikeouts in a fine effort that was enough to secure a game-winning call and win the sweep.

The bullpen was good in the first two games, but nearly made it too close for comfort in the series finale. Seth Martinez threw a scoreless 7th to follow Urquidy’s efforts in Game 1, but Phil Maton had another tough run, only managing one out and leaving the bases loaded. Ryne Stanek drove one of those runs home, but got the next 2 outs to maintain his personal scoreless streak, despite allowing another legacy run to score. From there, Hector Neris threw a scoreless 9th to get the save.

With Verlander having made it easier for the relievers in Game 2, Parker Mushinski threw a scoreless 8th, filling Ryan Pressly’s active roster. Bryan Abreu locked it down, saving the save in the 9th while adding one strikeout. Game 3 was tricky, as as Martinez came on to block the runner who would have broken Valdez’s aforementioned quality starting streak, he gave up a 2-run homer to former Astro Abraham Toro in the bottom of the 8th to en make an 8- 5 game. However, Toro’s trade counterpart Rafael Montero killed the rally and lowered his season ERA to 1.82, and Pressly returned from the paternity list to show the energy of his father and record his 20th save with a perfect 9th. Pressly has now struck out 30 in a row, an all-time Astros record.

On the defensive front, the Astros have been fundamentally sound this weekend, not recording an error all series. The most crucial defensive play occurred in the 8th inning of Game 1. With the bases loaded, only 1 out and Ryne Stanek having already walked in a run, Jeremy Pena took a spectacular leap on a Kyle Lewis liner. Stanek, flat out, wouldn’t have come out of this jam with this little damage if it weren’t for Pena, and who knows if the Mariners’ rally could have evened the game beyond that. It’s pretty impressive that this game was arguably the closest the Mariners got any advantage over the Astros all weekend.

Additionally, Jake Meyers made a nice dive catch in the first inning of game 2 to take extra goals away from Ty France, and arguably saved a run on the play. Shortly after, he got drilled with a fastball to the elbow of his throwing arm and was taken out of play, but the injury is not serious and he was going to sit on Sunday anyway.

Next

The Astros have now won 5 straight, sit 64-32 and have extended their AL West lead to 13 games. They proved they weren’t intimidated by the Mariners because of their winning streak, or lack of practice in intense games like these. Moreover, this record of 64-32 is related for the best 96-game start in franchise history. The team will take advantage of the huge positive momentum they have in Oakland for a 3-game set Monday-Wednesday this week. The Astros played them twice in the week before the All-Star break, going 3-3 in those contests, and they’ll see them again in the first half of August.

No likely starter has been listed for Houston in Games 2 and 3 of the upcoming series, but Jake Odorizzi has been confirmed as a starter for Monday. Odorizzi went 7 innings in his last appearance at Oakland Coliseum a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, Adam Oller, Frankie Montas and Cole Irvin have been listing like the probables for the A’s. Beyond that, the Astros will face Seattle again next weekend, this time for 4 games at Minute Maid Park in their last full series before the trade deadline. They proved a lot of themselves this weekend, but more tests against division rivals await them.

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