The Houston Astros have discovered that the comforts of home can provide revitalization, a timely revelation for a club that has spent several weeks treading water and struggling to fashion a lengthy stretch of exceptional play.
Two games into their three-game weekend series against the Seattle Mariners, the Astros have created a bit of momentum, following a 12-3 victory in the series opener with a 15-1 win Saturday that clinched the series and featured a number of standout individual performances.
One of those efforts came from left fielder Taylor Jones, who finished a single shy of the cycle while going 3-for-5 with four RBIs. Jones has shuttled back and forth between Houston and Triple-A Sugar Land, with his recent stint in the minors providing time to discover and develop.
“He’s made some adjustments when he went down to Sugar Land and he’s brought those adjustments here,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s swinging the bat great and he’s corrected some flaws.”
Jones was one cog in an effective machine Saturday. Jose Altuve posted a four-hit game. Yordan Alvarez homered for a second consecutive game. Jake Meyers recorded three RBIs and continues to be a revelation in center field following the deadline jettisoning of Myles Straw.
The Astros remain without two-time All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman. But the foundation for a formidable offense is apparent.
“Very dangerous,” Altuve said. “We have great hitters. From the leadoff to the ninth hitter, everybody can do damage. We can be very dangerous when we focus on what we’re doing.”
Left-hander Framber Valdez (8-4, 3.16 ERA) will start the series finale for the Astros on Sunday. Valdez has alternated wins and losses over his last four starts and is 3-3 with a 3.44 ERA over his last six, allowing a .645 OPS with 34 strikeouts against 19 walks in 36 2/3 innings. Valdez issued just one walk in his last start, a 3-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Aug. 17, after averaging four walks allowed in the previous four starts.
Valdez is 4-0 with a 1.48 ERA over six career appearances (four starts) against the Mariners with 32 strikeouts over 30 1/3 innings.
Left-hander Tyler Anderson (6-8, 4.10 ERA) will get the start Sunday as the Mariners attempt to avert the sweep. He earned his first win with the Mariners in his previous start after allowing one run over six innings with four strikeouts against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. Anderson, acquired from Pittsburgh on July 28, went 5-8 with a 4.35 ERA with the Pirates over 18 starts. He will make his fourth career start against the Astros, against whom he is 0-1 with a 7.56 ERA.
The Mariners have surprised this season primarily through their ability to win close games. Conversely, they have suffered too many blowouts, which have shaped their minus-65 run differential this season. Their play against the Astros revealed those struggles.
“Not our day here the last couple of days,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “You have to give the Astros credit. They blew our doors off the last couple of days.”
–Field Level Media