The Mariners open the second half Friday night with the first of three games against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. / Wiki Commons
GAME: Mariners (43-52, 4th, AL West, -13.0 GB) at Astros (33-61, 5th, AL West, -22.5 GB). GAME #: 96. SERIES: 1st of 3 games. MEETING: 10th (Astros lead 5-4). WHEN: Friday, 5:10 p.m., Minute Maid Park. STREAKS: Mariners W 3; Astros L 2. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network
It figured that the Houston Astros would be a gimme putt on the Mariners’ 2013 schedule, but given that it’s the Mariners we’re talking about, it also figures that they would get the yips. Seattle played the last-place Astros in two series and lost five times, one of many reasons the Mariners open the second half 13.0 games behind Oakland in the AL West.
The first of Seattle’s remaining 67 games will be played Friday night at Minute Maid Park. The Mariners will enter with a season-high three-game winning streak and will have one of their hottest pitchers taking the ball.
After suffering back-to-back defeats June 19 and June 25, to fall to 5-8, 4.98 ERA, lefty Joe Saunders strung together three consecutive victories to even his record at 8-8 (4.24 ERA). In those three, Saunders has allowed just two earned runs while striking out 12 and walking three.
Saunders opposes Bud Norris, who lost to Seattle 4-0 June 11 and is coming off a shellacking (seven earned runs) administered by St. Louis.
The Mariners are coming off their most productive offensive stretch of the season. In two home series against Boston and the L.A. Angels, the Mariners scored 48 runs on 78 hits, including 11 home runs.
MARINERS: LHP Joe Saunders (8-8, 4.24 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)
The 32-year-old Saunders, a Fairfax, VA., native in his ninth major league season and first with Seattle, will make his 20th start and third against the Astros. Saunders faced Houston twice early in the season, winning one and losing one while while recording a 6.35 ERA with seven strikeouts, three walks and a pair of home runs allowed. Saunders, with a win, would improve to 4-0 in July.
- LAST START: July 12 vs. L.A. Angels, won 8-3; 0 earned runs on 5 hits in 7.0 innings; 5 strikeouts, 2 walks, 0 home runs, 109 pitches, 68 for strikes.
- LAST VS. ASTROS: April 24, lost 10-3; 8 earned runs on 11 hits in 5.0 innings; 2 strikeouts, 2 walks, 2 home runs, 84 pitches, 50 for strikes.
- CAREER VS. ASTROS: 1-1, 5.55 ERA in 4 starts covering 24.1 innings; 13 strikeouts, 7 walks, 2 home runs, 1.56 WHIP.
- AT MINUTE MAID PARK: 0-1, 14.40 ERA in 1 start covering 5.0 innings; 2 strikeouts, 0 walks, 2 home runs, 2.60 WHIP.
- LOVES TO FACE: Carlos Pena (0-for-9, .000), Justin Maxwell (1-for-6, .167), J.D. Martinez (1-for-5, .200).
- HATES TO FACE: Ronny Cedeno (4-for-5, .800), Brandon Laird (2-fo-3, .667), Matt Dominguez (3-for-6, .600).
- CURRENT ASTROS VS. SAUNDERS: 22-for-67, .328 BA, 11 strikeouts, 7 walks, 2 home runs, .395 on-base percentage.
ASTROS: RHP Bud Norris (6-8, .363 ERA, 1.41 WHIP)
The 28-year-old Norris, a Greenbrae, CA., native in his fifth major league season, all with Houston, will make his 20th start and third against the Mariners. Norris defeated Seattle 3-2 April 23 and sustained a 4-0 loss at Safeco Field June 11. He has lost four of his past five decisions.
- LAST START: July 9 at St. Louis, lost 9-5; 7 earned runs on 11 hits in 5.0 innings; 5 strikeouts, 1 walk, 1 home run, 92 pitches, 67 for strikes.
- LAST VS. MARINERS: June 11, lost 4-0; 3 earned runs on 5 hits in 7.0 innings; 6 strikeouts, 1 walk, 1 home run, 94 pitches, 63 for strikes.
- CAREER VS. MARINERS: 1-1, 3.00 ERA in 2 starts covering 12.0 innings; 8 strikeouts, 3 walks, 1 home run, 1.33 WHIP.
- AT MINUTE MAID PARK: 21-17, 3.27 ERA in 59 starts covering 361.0 innings; 339 strikeouts, 136 walks, 41 home runs, 1.27 WHIP.
- LOVES TO FACE: Michael Saunders (0-for-2, .000), Brendan Ryan (0-for-7, .000).
- HATES TO FACE: Justin Smoak (2-for-3, .667), Kyle Seager (2-for-5, .400), Endy Chavez (2-for-6, .333).
- CURRENT MARINERS VS. NORRIS: 18-for-62, .290 BA, 11 strikeouts, 5 walks, 2 home runs, .338 on-base percentage.
MARINERS STATS / NOTES
- CURRENT ROAD TRIP: Three at Houston (Friday-Sunday). Following the trip, the Mariners return to Safeco Field for a seven-game home stand featuring Cleveland and Minnesota.
- The Mariners finished the first half 43-52, a three-game improvement from where they were at the All-Star break a year ago (40-55).
- Mariners had a .500 record at Safeco Field (25-25).
- 28 of Seattle’s 52 losses were by three or fewer runs. The Mariners went 12-16 in one-run games and 8-6 in two-run contests.
- Seattle held a lead in 22 of its 52 losses and recorded 14 comeback victories. The Mariners also lost 14 games in their opponents’ final at-bat, tied for the American League lead.
- Seattle’s six walk-off losses are tied for second in the AL.
- Mariners recorded a series record of 12-14-5. going 5-5 in rubber games
- Mariners start the second half with a 22-game streak of hitting at least one home run, a continuing franchise record. The Mariners have homered in every game since June 20. The 2002 Texas Rangers homered in 27 consecutive games, the major league record.
- Mariners finished the first half with 115 home runs, tied for second most in MLB. Last year, the Mariners hit 149 home runs.
- With 10 shutouts, the Mariners have already tied the club record for most in a season.
||LHP Joe Saunders (8-8) vs. RHP Bud Norris (6-8)
||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (8-4) vs. TBA
||RHP Felix Hernandez (10-4) vs. TBA