It was inevitable, but the Mariners’ offense finally struggled to score. And it took quite the pitching performance to do so. Here are three positives to take away from an otherwise disappointing 3-1 loss to Houston.
A NOSTALGIC PITCHING DUEL
It comes as no surprise that Justin Verlander mowed through the Mariners’ lineup tonight. For as efficient as their offense has been, the Mariners also have the second-most strikeouts in the American League. Heading into his fourth start of the year, Verlander is 24th among MLB starters in inducing swinging strikes. It was a bad matchup on paper that played out just about as expected, with Verlander striking out 11 in six innings of two-hit ball.
Félix Hernández, coming off a one-inning outing in Kansas City due to a virus, made the matchup look even worse. Surprisingly, Hernández was strong in his six innings of work, finding ways to miss bats against a championship-caliber lineup. His command was still an issue on occasion tonight, missing poorly on a pair of home runs to Robinson Chirinos and José Altuve. But overall, to only just three runs in six innings versus the Astros is a welcome performance.
MARINERS’ BATS GRIND ALL DAY, GRIND ALL NIGHT
For the first time this year, the Mariners’ offense hit a brick wall. Aside from a solo home run by Mitch Haniger, the Mariners mustered just one other hit while striking out 11 times against Verlander.
Seattle’s bats made Verlander earn each and every one of those strikeouts, however, stringing together quality at-bats to drive his pitch count up. It was clear that the Mariners weren’t going to succeed against Verlander, so it was a matter of running him out of the game as soon as possible.
Assisted by a 13-pitch at-bat from Dee Gordon—which unfortunately ended in a soft pop to right field—Seattle had Verlander at 105 pitches by the end of the sixth inning, forcing A.J. Hinch’s hand.
Though the Mariners didn’t score against the Astros’ bullpen, but their ability to at least put themselves in a better position to succeed shouldn’t go unnoticed. They weren’t hitting Verlander tonight, but being able to quickly run up the pitch count of one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game proves that Seattle’s new philosophy and plate approach does work.
BRENNAN, SADZECK IMPRESSIVE ONCE MORE
It was a good night for the Mariners’ pitching staff. After Félix exited with six innings under his belt, Brandon Brennan took over and continued to impose his will on opposing hitters. The changeup was just as nasty as ever, helping Brennan notch another scoreless appearance.
Connor Sadzeck then pitched the final two innings, bolstering his fastball and all of its 97 MPH glory. The former Texas Rangers reliever held the Astros hitless in that time, striking out two along the way.
Both Sadzeck and Brennan have emerged as crutches out of the bullpen for Scott Servais. It’s a pleasant surprise, given both are two of the youngest members of the current bullpen as well. It’s still a wee bit too early to tell, but the Mariners may have discovered two young, controllable high-leverage relievers with very little cost.
The Mariners will look to salvage the final game of this three-game set with the Astros, whom have given Seattle their first series loss of the season. Gerrit Cole (0-2, 3.32 ERA) takes the bump for Houston, with Marco Gonzales (4-0, 3.16 ERA) set to oppose him. First pitch at 1:10 PM PT on ROOT Sports.