HOUSTON — Considering that was the last time they would face the Mariners in the regular season and the Astros suffered a bitter defeat at the end of the game a night earlier, Houston knew that finding a way to earn a victory in Sunday afternoon’s series finale at Minute Maid Park was paramount.
This was evident in the first inning, when the Astros were aggressive on base runs, with Jose Altuve flying home at the end of a double steal. It was evident on the mound, where Jake Odorizzi gave Houston perhaps its best start to the season.
“Those were tough games,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s a quality team. They’re suffering a bit today, but every time you beat someone in your division, it’s a two game win. It was huge today and a big difference between 10 and 12 [games up]. We’re happy we won this game today and we got some good plays from some guys.
The Astros went 12-7 against the Mariners in 2022, winning six of seven meetings between the teams over a 10-day span. In fact, Seattle has gone 18-6 since July 2, with all six losses to Houston. This allowed the Astros (67-36) to maintain a 12 games clear at the top of the AL West on the Mariners (55-48) before the final two months of the regular season.
The Astros missed Saturday’s game in the ninth inning by allowing the Mariners to score twice, handing Houston just its second loss this season in 59 games in which it led after eight innings. So when Jesse Winker hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning on Sunday against Ryne Stanek to tie the game, the Astros had to tie up.
“It was important, especially after last night’s game, because we all thought we won that one,” said Odorizzi, who allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings. “It’s good for everyone to bounce back on short notice, a day game. We did what we had to do to win today. It really showed the resilience of his team. We had to scrounge. Sometimes it’s good for us to win games like that. … It’s good to win these close games, especially against a team that kind of turned us away yesterday.
After Hector Neris pitched a 1-2-3 10th inning, getting a pair of strikeouts to block the Mariners’ auto-runner at second base, the Astros got to work late in the inning. With runners at first and second and no outs, Yuli Gurriel’s two-strike fly ball into right field moved Dubón to third.
Instead of walking with Alvarez to load the bases, the Mariners let Brennan Bernardino, who was making his Major League debut, throw at the slugger. It didn’t end well. Alvarez, hitless in his previous four at-bats, fired a helicopter left to beat the switch for Houston’s sixth win of the season.
Alvarez was asked if he thought the Mariners might intentionally walk him around to load bases.
“On the contrary, I thought they were going to revolve around Yuli, and I thought the situation was going to get to me,” Alvarez said. “I just focused and said, ‘I was going to be the one. “”
Perhaps the biggest development on Sunday was Odorizzi, whose name has appeared in trade rumours. The Astros would like to add an offense — possibly an outfielder or first baseman — and a backup receiver, as well as a backup pitcher before Tuesday’s 5 p.m. trade deadline. To achieve that, they may have to move one of their starting pitchers, which is a strong position.
Odorizzi, who left his previous start with a blister on his throwing finger, is 4-1 with a 2.82 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in his last nine starts and features to play a key role in Houston’s rotation going forward, if untraded.
“I think Odorizzi threw the ball really well,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. a lot against him all day.