GAME: Mariners (8-14, 4th, AL West, -6.0 GB) at Astros (6-14, 5th, AL West. -7.0 GB). GAME #: 23. SERIES: 3rd of 3 games. MEETING: 6th (Astros lead 3-2). WHEN: Wednesday, 11:10 a.m., Minute Maid Park. STREAKS: Mariners L 1; Astros W 1. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network
The Houston Astros lost 106 games in 2011 and 107 more in 2012, and have won only six times in 20 games this year, which projects to 114 losses. But three of those six Houston wins have come against the Mariners, which projects to a massive humiliation for the local nine if this trend continues.Tuesday night’s Seattle stumble might as well have been a Keystone Kops throwback game. The Mariners gave Houston one run when Raul Ibanez misplayed a ball in the outfield. They gave the Astros another when starter Hisashi Iwakuma plunked a batter with the bases loaded. They lost 3-2. Now, the Mariners are on the verge of losing two — two! — series to baseball’s widely acknowledged worst team. In a month.
For Seattle, which has endured numerous baseball pains over the past four decades, this might be the defining game of the season.
Manager Eric Wedge told the assembled media after Tuesday’s loss that “we have guys heading in the right direction.” Could have fooled us. But additional discovery will be made in a Wednesday brunch-time meeting when Seattle and Houston close out a series at Minute Maid Park with the Astros leading the season series 3-2 and the Mariners reeling from a 1-4 start to a six-game road trip.
Lefty Joe Saunders, who blanked the Astros 3-0 the last time he saw them (April 8 at Safeco Field) will oppose RHP Lucas Harrell, who has never pitched against the Mariners and is therefore blissfully ignorant of their aggravating history. A closer look:
MARINERS: LHP Joe Saunders (1-2, 4.50 ERA, 1.59 WHIP)
The 31-year-old Saunders, a Virginia native in his ninth major league season and first with the Mariners, will make his fifth start and second against the Astros. Saunders delivered two quality starts in his first three outings (vs. Houston and Texas), but was pummeled by the Rangers 7-0 in his last game. He had his best outing April 8, when he held the Astros to no earned runs on six hits in 6.0 innings.
- LAST START: April 19 at Texas, lost 7-0; 7 earned runs on 9 hits in 4.2 innings; 0 strikeouts, 3 walks, 1 home run, 95 pitches, 33 for strikes.
- LAST VS. ASTROS: April 8 at Safeco Field, won 3-0; 0 earned runs on 6 hits in 6.1 innings; 5 strikeouts, 1 walk, 0 home runs, 91 pitches, 57 for strikes.
- CAREER VS. ASTROS: 1-0, 3.26 ERA in 3 starts covering 19.1 innings; 11 strikeouts, 5 walks, 0 home runs, 1.29 WHIP.
- AT MINUTE MAID PARK: Never pitched.
- LOVES TO FACE: Carlos Pena (0-for-6, .000), Rick Ankiel (0-for-4, .000), J.D. Martinez (1-for-5, .200).
- HATES TO FACE: Matt Dominiguez (2-for-3, .667), Jose Altuve (3-for-7, .429), Jason Castro (1-for-3, .333).
- CURRENT ASTROS VS. SAUNDERS: 11-for-48, .229 BA, 11 strikeouts, 5 walks, 0 home runs, .296 on-base percentage.
RANGERS: RHP Lucas Harrell (1-2, 4.98 ERA, 1.70 WHIP)
The 27-year-old Harrell, a Missouri native in his fourth major league season and third with the Astros, will make his fifth start and first against the Mariners. Harrell has lost two of his three decisions but is coming off a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Indians. Harrell, selected by the Chicago White Sox in the fourth round of the 2004 amateur draft, has yet to work into the seventh inning in any of his starts, but has allowed two or fewer earned runs three times.
- LAST START: April 19 vs. Houston, won 3-2; 2 earned runs on 5 hits in 5.2 innings; 4 strikeouts, 5 walks, 99 pitches, 59 for strikes.
- LAST VS. MARINERS: Never pitched.
- CAREER VS. MARINERS: No record.
- AT MINUTE MAID PARK: 7-6, 2.97 ERA in 19 games, including 18 starts, covering 106.0 innings; 75 strikeouts to 50 walks, 7 home runs, 1.44 WHIP.
- LOVES/HATES TO FACE: Harrell faced just two Mariners. Michael Morse and Kelly Shoppach are both 0-for-1 against him.
- CURRENT MARINERS VS. HARRELL: 0-for-2, .000 BA, 2 strikeouts, 2 walks, 0 home runs, .333 on-base percentage.
MARINERS STATS / NOTES
- CURRENT ROAD TRIP: Three at Texas, three at Houston (Monday-Wednesday). The Mariners will return to Safeco Field Thursday against the Angels.
- Hisashi Iwakuma sruck out a season-high 11 Tuesday, but the six hits he gave up were the most he has allowed this season. He saw a five-game winning streak end dating to Sept. 14, 2012.
- Five Seattle pitchers combined to whiff 15 Houston batters Tuesday.
- Dustin Ackley has a career-high, 12-game hitting streak. He had a fifth inning single Tuesday.
- During this road trip, the Mariners went 1-for-24 with runners in scoring position in the Texas series, and have gone 5-for-13 in the first two games against the Astros (1-for-5 Tuesday).
- In the Mariners’ eight victories, they are batting .369 (24-for-65) with runners in scoring position. In 14 losses, the Mariners are batting .114 (10-for-88) with RISP. The Mariners have no hits with RISP eight times in 22 games.
- As the Mariners noted Tuesday, among pitchers who began their MLB careers after the start of divisional play in 1969, only five reached 100 career wins at a younger age than Felix Hernandez (27 years, 14 days). They were Dwight Gooden (24/215), Bert Blyleven (25/76), Fernando Valenzuela (26/162), Don Gullett (26/199) and Vida Blue (26/361).
- The Mariners are in the midst of 16 games in 16 days. They will not have their second day off of the regular season until May 2.
|4/24||Wed||at Hou||LHP Joe Saunders (1-2) vs. RHP Lucas Harrell (0-2)|
|4/25||Thr||vs. LAA||RHP Brandon Maurer (1-3) vs. RHP Garrett Richards (1-0)|
|4/26||Fri||vs. LAA||RHP Aaron Harang (0-2) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (1-0)|
|4/27||Sat||vs. LAA||RHP Felix Hernandez (2-2) vs. RHP Joe Blanton (0-3)|
|4/28||Sun||vs. LAA||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (2-0) vs. LHP Jason Vargas (0-2)|