MARINERS (37-49) AT ASTROS (51-32)
8:15 p.m. ET; FOX, MLB.TV
The challenge facing every manager in the majors is striking that delicate balance of governing the game at hand while also considering the impact of present decisions on future results.
When Houston suffered through two blowout losses to the Pittsburgh Pirates this week, Astros manager A.J. Hinch squeezed extended relief appearances out of right-handers Chris Devenski and Cy Sneed in anticipation of a night like Friday, when his high-leverage options would be called upon to provide effective relief.
The Astros received four scoreless innings from their bullpen in a 2-1, 10-inning win over the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park, a collective effort born from what Devenski and Sneed provided on Wednesday and Thursday.
Josh James, Ryan Pressly, Roberto Osuna and Will Harris each worked a scoreless inning to secure the series opener and set the stage for a series victory Saturday. Resting his top arms while being outscored 24-2 by the Pirates enabled Hinch to maximize subsequent opportunities.
“I was glad they were fresh,” Hinch told reporters Friday. “This goes back to Cy Sneed being able to throw six innings and ‘Devo’ picking us up with three innings in his longest outing of the year a couple games ago.
“It was important for all of our guys to come in and get their outs, especially when we got back in the game.”
Right-hander Justin Verlander (10-3, 2.67 ERA) will make his 18th start of the season for the Astros on Saturday. Verlander helped Houston snap a seven-game losing streak in his previous outing, limiting the New York Yankees to three runs on four hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over seven innings in a 9-4 victory on June 23. Verlander, who leads all American League pitchers in WHIP (0.75) and batting average allowed (.157), is 13-9 with a 3.27 ERA over 27 career starts against the Mariners. He has faced Seattle twice this season, going 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA after allowing four runs on seven hits with 18 strikeouts over 12 1/3 innings.
Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (4-5, 5.11 ERA) will start for the Mariners. He won his last start, allowing three runs and posting three strikeouts over six innings in a 13-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles on June 23. Kikuchi, who made his major league debut against the Oakland Athletics on March 21, notched his first career victory on April 20 against the Los Angeles Angels after surrendering four runs on 10 hits, with two walks with three strikeouts, over five innings in a 6-5 win.
Saturday will mark his first career appearance against the Astros.
The Mariners entered the weekend second in the majors with 145 home runs but a shell of their previously power-laden lineup, one that included the since-traded Edwin Encarnacion (New York Yankees) and Jay Bruce (Philadelphia Phillies) plus Mitch Haniger, who is currently on the 10-day injured list. Combined, that trio has slugged 50 homers. Without them, Seattle lacked the pop to outlast the scuffling Astros on Friday, wasting a pitching effort that set a positive tone for the three-game series.
“You come in here you know you have to score more than one run to beat this club,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We just weren’t able to do it offensively. Our pitching continues to throw the ball really well, (we) just didn’t do a whole lot against their pitching.”
–Field Level Media