For the Seattle Mariners, the Houston Astros have been an unexpected road block this season. Despite the Astros’ residence in last place, Seattle went 4-5 against Houston in the first half of the season, including Houston taking two of the three series. But July has been a different story for the Mariners. Seattle, after earning just one three-game sweep in the first half of the season, made it two in a row and earned their first road sweep taking three straight from Houston. .500 is within sight, as Seattle pulled to 46-52 on the season, one game back of the Angels for third place in the A.L. West.
Offensive Heroes. In my article on a possible second half surge, I stated the key would be the young bats continuing to produce. The Mariners hit that nail on the head. Powered by the young bats, they put up double-digit runs twice in Houston. Michael Saunders was the only Mariner to get a hit in every game of this series, and he delivered the key blow, a 2 RBI double, to power Seattle past Houston 4-2 on Saturday. In that game, Seattle had just one hit, none of the starter ex-Mariner Erik Bedard, but took advantage of walks to get enough runners to take the 4-2 win. The Mariners hit four home runs in the opener in a 10-7 win: Kyle Seager and Justin Smoak each had one with Brad Miller hitting two, the first two of his career. Nick Franklin hit a Grand Slam on Sunday, putting the Mariners out to a 7-0 second inning lead that they never looked back from in a 12-5 win.
Starting Pitching. The Mariners had their three strongest starters going, and each took advantage of the increased run production to pick up a victory. Joe Saunders moved to 9-8 on the season on Friday, limiting the Astros to three ER in 5.1 IP. Hisashi Iwakuma has hopefully shrugged off a cold spell, winning his second straight start on Saturday in the 4-2 win. Iwakuma limited Houston to two ER in 7.0 IP while striking out seven Astros. The ace was up on Sunday, and Felix Hernandez wasn’t going to waste a 10-0 lead. Hernandez cruised in picking up his eleventh victory of the season, allowing 0 ER in 6 IP on four hits while striking out seven.
Back Home Again. The Mariners are a good week away from being back to .500. This may ring familiar to Mariners fans; after taking two of three from the Yankees in New York the team was 20-21 going into Cleveland. Three walk-off wins later the Indians took a four-game sweep, and Seattle went into a tail spin, losing eight in a row before righting the ship. Seattle is on another high note, and here come those same Indians. The Mariners will play the next seven at home: three against those pesky Indians and then four against the Twins. Cleveland is in the middle of a six-game road trip having lost two of three in their first series on the trip to Minnesota.