It’s finally here. No more can the naysayers complain by saying “The Mariners hadn’t really made the playoffs yet. That round didn’t count for breaking the drought.” If you’re shaking your head at that reasoning, I agree. The new format still has the lowest percentage of teams from any of the major sports going to the playoffs. The Mariners took it to the Blue Jays with both a dominant pitching performance as well as a comeback for the ages.
Now… the Astros.
It’s gonna be a whole different ballgame. We are talking about one of the most experienced and complete teams in all of baseball. The trash can thing is well in the past, and whether you are on the cheater side or the non-cheater side, you aren’t going to change your mind.
There is the whole aspect of hitting players as well, which Astros fans and announcers seem to complain about. Even though the Mariners hit the 3rd fewest hitters in baseball this year (56 to Houston’s 60) and hit the Astros 7 times in 698 PA, which is just a 1% rate. (Shout out to Luke Arkins for the great analysis on that). Meanwhile, the Astros have hit the Mariners 15 times!
Interesting… maybe they are the ones who are dirty. Astros fans and commentators might want to look into that.
You know what though? I could complain and moan about the Astros until Pete Rose admits he was wrong… so, forever. That’s not what I’m here to do. Well, in this article, at least.
It’s playoff baseball. I’m psyched, and I am counting down the minutes until game time. As of this exact moment, it’s 285 minutes away. Let’s get to the Game One Preview between the Mariners and Astros.
Mariners @ Astros: Pitching Matchup
Tuesday, October 11th @ 12:37 PM – Logan Gilbert vs Justin Verlander
Oh man. Logan Gilbert aka Walter has been feeling himself lately, but this is a whole different animal. Let’s throw out the KC start, and in his other 8 most recent starts, Gilbert has gone 48.1 innings, allowing just 2 HR and 12 BB while compiling an ERA of 1.86. Not too shabby for an eight-game stretch when you throw out the lone bad game, right?
Well, how about doing that for an entire season?
Verlander, in 28 starts and 175 IP, had an ERA of 1.75. That’s a career-best for someone who is already in the running for best pitcher of his generation. He led the league in wins, ERA, ERA+, WHIP, and H/9.
That’s what the Mariners are going to be up against today. They did have a good game against him early in the season when they hit 4 HR, scoring six against Verlander on ten hits. The other five starts though…
37 K in 36.1 IP, just 23 hits and four walks, 2 homers, and an ERA of 1.24.
Here’s who is going to have to be on their game in order to try and get the jump on Verlander.
Mariners @ Astros: The Lineups
The usual. It’s who you would expect from the Mariners. I think we are all hoping that Julio continues his trend of hitting the ball hard and takes advantage of Verlander trying to be aggressive early. LEADOFF HOMERUN IS HAPPENING!
Outside of that, the Mariners are going to need the bottom of the lineup to continue getting on base. If they can eek out some hits and walks, and set the table for the top of the lineup, I feel like that is going to be the deciding factor in today’s game. Adam Frazier has been hot lately, and if he can rip another single or two today, that would be massive. I think JP Crawford might be the deciding factor though. He’s been taking pitches and putting the ball where it needs to be.
On the other side, there are just so many players that you have to be careful of. It’s like Toronto all over again, except these guys have a lot more experience in the playoffs. Altuve is one of the greatest postseason players of all time. Alonso had a monster season. Kyle Tucker is underrated and a beast. Then there’s Bregman, who is the second coming of Evan Longoria. He’s just plain good, and performs when it matters.
Mariners @ Astros: Final Thoughts
Look, the Mariners are going to have their hands full today, there is no arguing against that. Justin Verlander is incredible, and easily one of the best pitchers most of us have ever seen in our lifetimes. The dude is nasty.
However, he’s not unblemished. The Mariners did hit him hard back on May 27th. They hit him often that game and found the long ball four times. It’s unlikely he is going to make those kinds of mistakes, but it is something that could happen. We’ve seen Kershaw do it, DeGrom, Scherzer, and even Verlander before. Aces can get hit in the playoffs. It is baseball, after all.
Any time he makes a mistake, the Mariners need to capitalize. They can’t let opportunities slide by and hope to get him on the next one, because there might not be a next one. A hanging pitch or a scoring opportunity, and they need to make it hurt. They’ll be few and far between, but that is likely to be the difference maker in Game One.
Lastly, the battle of the bullpens is real. You could make an argument that either one of them is the best in baseball, as they have been that good. Don’t expect a ton of runs to score once the starter goes out.
This means that we will probably see epic blowouts from each staff, a couple of comebacks, and multiple blown saves.
It’s going to be insane. It’s here, it’s real, and it’s spectacular (I love putting that line in whenever I can). The Mariners are back in the ALDS and have a shot to take down the literal and figurative bully of not just the division, but the American League in general. Go Mariners!