The Astros’ real weapon of choice? The beanball

Rookie sparkplug latest on list of Mariners beaned after homers against Houston.
Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros
Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros / Bob Levey/GettyImages
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Everyone knows the Astros were the cream of the crop for the past seven years, often running the table and annually drubbing their American League West competition. Have they deployed a stellar pitching staff? Sure. Is their lineup among the deepest in the league? No doubt. Do they have a penchant for delivering in clutch situations? Yes, Yordan Alvarez’s game-winning homer in last year’s playoffs is a shining example. But there’s one more attribute this team has used in recent years to push their big brother narrative, the beanball.

Pitching inside is a big part of the game, but the numbers and the incidents over the past four years tell a different story. Houston Astro pitchers hit 233 batters since 2020, while Mariner pitchers beaned 196 batters in the same timeframe. However, the table below shows the stark difference in HBP when these two teams match up.

Team

Pitchers HBP 2020

Pitchers HBP 2021

Pitchers HBP 2022

Pitchers HBP 2023

Total Pitchers HBP

Astros

5

8

13

9

35

Mariners

3

6

6

2

17

Big brother, bully of the block, whatever you want to call them, the Houston Astros have penned a narrative over the past few years -especially regarding their relationship, or lack thereof, with the Seattle Mariners. We’ve seen benches clear, coaches screaming at each other from the dugouts, and some terse words spoken post-game.

Most Mariner fans will call out a few instances to make their case; specifically, Kyle Lewis being beaned and following at-bat after launching a homer off Justin Verlander in 2020 and Ty France wearing one after J.P. Crawford hit a long ball in 2022. But I will never forget this one from a tense game in 2021. Shoutout to Jomboy.

Well, the trend continued this past weekend. Rookie infielder Jose Caballero, who got under the Astros’ skin early this year with pitch clock manipulation, was on the receiving end of yet another Framber Valdez beanball. To set the scene, Dylan Moore had just rocketed a two-run opposite-field homer of the Astro’s lefty pushing the Mariners’ lead to 6-0. The first pitch of the at-bat nailed Caballero in the left shin, causing him to miss the following game with soreness.

This isn’t the first time Valdez has hit someone after a homer. He did it last week against the Miami Marlins when Jorge Soler, Luis Arraez, and Josh Bell tagged him for consecutive long balls. Additionally, he is the team leader in hit-by-pitches over the past four years, with 32. There is a narrative from the clubhouse that, if left unchecked, will cause severe damage.  

Interestingly, Veteran manager Dusty Baker took over the skipper role for the Astros in 2020, shortly after the cheating scandal broke. The plan was to have a well-respected voice in the clubhouse who could become a buffer between the players and the inevitable backlash. However, something interesting happened along the way; they embraced the villain role, which is a poor look for the so-called cream of the crop in the American League.

The good news is the Mariners aren’t backing down, having taken the season series already with an 8-2 record against the Astros.