Astros, Mariners looking to win season series
HOUSTON -- After the news broke that Astros third baseman Alex Bregman had accomplished something never previously done by a player at his position, someone somewhere suggested he'd receive the Barry Bonds treatment when he came to the plate in high-leverage situations.
During the Astros' interleague series victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, Bregman appeared to experience that cautious approach, producing a .538 on-base percentage despite recording only one base hit: an infield single that ricocheted off Diamondbacks reliever Silvino Bracho in the sixth inning on Saturday. Bregman finished 1-for-7 in the series yet drew five walks, two intentional, and was hit by a pitch in his final plate appearance of the weekend.
"At his best, he walks even in the middle of his hot streaks," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Bregman, who is the first third baseman to record 30 home runs and 50 doubles in a season. "I do think people are pitching him pretty carefully and we're seeing that probably a little more."
The Astros (94-55) are 7-0-1 over their last eight series and 12-2 this month. They will host the Seattle Mariners for a three-game series starting on Monday at Minute Maid Park.
The winner of the set will claim the season series, which is knotted at 8-8. Houston won the season series against the four other American League West teams en route to the 2017 World Series and has clinched the season series against its three division rivals excluding Seattle already this season.
Rookie left-hander Framber Valdez (3-1, 2.66 ERA) will make his fifth career start and sixth appearance on Monday against the Mariners. He made his debut in Seattle on Aug. 21, allowing one unearned run on two hits and one walk with four strikeouts over 4 1/3 relief innings, earning the victory in the Astros' 3-2 win at Safeco Field. Over four subsequent starts, Valdez has surrendered seven runs on 14 hits and 13 walks with 14 strikeouts over 19 1/3 innings.
Left-hander Wade LeBlanc (8-4, 3.56 ERA) will start the series opener for the Mariners. He has worked a career-high 146 2/3 innings over 29 appearances (24 starts) and is 1-1 with a 1.13 ERA over his last four starts. LeBlanc has faced the Astros five times (including three starts) this season, going 1-1 with an 8.31 ERA. He is 1-1 with a 6.32 ERA over nine career appearances (five starts) against the Astros.
The Mariners (82-67) are expecting both left-hander James Paxton and right-hander Felix Hernandez to rejoin the rotation at some point during their current 10-game road trip. Paxton, who last pitched on Sept. 7 against the New York Yankees, has been sidelined by pneumonia. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen session upon his return prior to making his 27th start.
Hernandez has been hampered by right hamstring soreness that caused him to exit his start against the Yankees on Sept. 8 after allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits and three walks over four innings. He threw over the weekend in Seattle and could rejoin the rotation in time to pitch in Houston.
Hernandez made a start against the Astros on Aug. 20, his first following a brief demotion to the bullpen and first career relief appearance. He did not factor into the decision in that 7-4 home win after allowing four runs on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts over six innings.