The Seattle Mariners open up a vital four-game series Thursday night against the Houston Astros. The Astros have won six of the nine head-to-head meetings between these teams this season. They are also -160 favorites to win Thursday’s series opener.
The Mariners were once neck and neck with Houston, but now they find themselves on the outside of the wild-card race. Seattle has won just two of their last nine games, dropping them three games behind the Oakland A’s in the wild-card race. The Mariners desperately need to get things turned around as soon as possible.
The Astros, meanwhile, appear to be cruising to their second straight AL West title. They have the second most wins in baseball and a five-game lead over Oakland. Houston is also 5-1 so far in the month of August, as they are finding ways to win despite the rash of injuries to hit the club over the past few weeks.
Justin Verlander will get the start for Houston on Thursday. He shows no signs of slowing down at age 35, as he’s 11-6 with a 2.19 ERA in 24 starts this season. He’s been even better lately, giving up just three runs in 18.2 innings in his three starts since the all-star break, striking out 32 batters over that span.
Somehow, Verlander has avoided facing the Mariners this season. However, he does have good numbers in his career against most of Seattle’s hitters. The two exceptions to that are Kyle Seager and Denard Span, both left-handed hitters who see the ball well against Verlander. Nelson Cruz has also had mild success against Verlander and his swinging a hot bat right now, so those are the three hitters that the Mariners need to do damage against Verlander.
An Ace of Our Own
The Mariners will counter Verlander with their own ace, lefty James Paxton. In 22 starts this season, Paxton is 9-5 with a 3.22 ERA. He’s also less than two weeks removed from tossing seven shutout innings against the Astros. In fact, in three starts against Houston this year, Paxton has allowed just two runs over 20.2 innings.
Perhaps more importantly, the Astros are still without Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer. Coincidentally, those three have the most impressive career numbers against Paxton of anyone on Houston’s roster. The Astros still have other threats in their lineup, most notably Marwin Gonzalez, who is 6 for 18 with two home runs over the past week. But the Astros are a little short right now on hitters with any kind of success against Paxton.
It’s always tough to pick against the Astros, but it may be appropriate in this instance. Paxton’s success against Houston is too much to ignore, especially when the Astros are missing three of their most important hitters. The fact that Verlander is starting makes this game a little more difficult to call. However, bet on the Mariners +160 to beat the Astros on Thursday.