The Astros couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
After a three-game sweep of the New York Mets in their emotional homecoming, the ‘Stros hit the road for three games in Seattle. It was a significant moment for the team – they shone big and bright in their return to Houston, and are now lined up to star on an even bigger stage. The playoff roster is starting to take shape, most notably in the starting rotation.
Longtime staff anchor and 2015 Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel took the mound in Seattle for game one. The crafty left-hander stifled the Mariners over 7 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits. Keuchel threw 67 of his 108 pitches for strikes, and recorded a whopping 15 outs via the ground ball.
Yuli Gurriel and Brian McCann each launched solo home runs to back Keuchel, and Alex Bregman contributed a 2-RBI double. That proved to be plenty of run support for the veteran ace, who moved to 12-3 with a 2.88 ERA on the season. Ken Giles worked a flawless ninth inning to nail down the 6-2 victory, striking out all three Seattle batters he faced on only 13 total pitches.
The Astros are just getting started.
Tonight, Justin Verlander makes his hotly-anticipated Houston debut opposite Seattle lefty Ariel Miranda. Over his last ten appearances, Miranda is 1-2 with a 6.84 ERA; Verlander is 5-2 with a 2.41 ERA. In 22 career starts against Seattle, Verlander boasts a 3.15 ERA.
Seattle batters won’t get much of a reprieve in Wednesday’s finale, when Lance McCullers Jr. rejoins the Houston rotation. The 23-year-old with the devastating curveball has been sidelined by back pain since July, but has shown flashes of dominance this year. Together with Keuchel and Verlander, he forms a lethal 1-2-3 punch that the Astros hope will knock out a string of opponents in October.
Don’t bet against it – after an uneven start to the season’s second half, the Astros are heating up, galvanized by the resilience of their hometown. The road to the championship is still off in the distance. But for the first time in a while, it looks like it may go through Houston.
The Quick Pitch
When the Astros acquired Justin Verlander on August 31, it created a logjam in the starting rotation that could only be solved by some bullpen maneuvering. Yesterday, the Astros announced that veteran righty Mike Fiers was the moving part – he’ll join the bullpen in Seattle this week. Fiers has been inconsistent this year, but his presence alone has been valuable to Houston. In a rotation depleted by injury for much of the year, Fiers has led the way with 27 starts. Now, the Astros hope that the right-hander can rediscover his mojo in a multi-inning fireman role.
Altuve, Maybin Recognized
Every year, each major league club nominates one player for the Roberto Clemente Award, which honors players for their philanthropic work. Jose Altuve earned the nod for the Astros this year. Cameron Maybin, whom the Astros acquired from the Angels on August 31, took home a nomination from that organization. Both players have been active in the community following Hurricane Harvey.