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MLB Mariners look to narrow Astros lead in AL West

The likelihood of the Astros completing the regular season without being swept in a series of at least three games was slim. The probability that Houston would suffer a series sweep at the hands of a last-place team seemed even more improbable.

With their 4-2 road loss to the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, the Astros fell to 9-1 in series sweeps this season and posted their second three-game losing streak on the road. That made this week’s sweep more of a surprise considering Houston entered the series finale with the best road record in the American League at 34-20.

After playing their 55th road game, most in the majors, on Wednesday, the Astros returned home to open a four-game series against the Seattle Mariners starting on Thursday.

The Astros extended their lead in the AL West to 13 games with a sweep of the Mariners over the weekend. That was before the bottom fell out of their momentum in Oakland, leaving them with a 10-game lead. Houston starters Jake Odorizzi, Luis Garcia and Cristian Javier finished a combined 0-3 with a 7.47 ERA in the series with the Athletics, allowing 16 hits and six walks while compiling just 15 2/3 innings.

The Astros went 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position to grease the skids of their demise.

Right-hander Jose Urquidy (9-4, 3.93 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Astros on Thursday. He has produced seven consecutive quality starts, going 4-1 with a 2.58 ERA and an opponent OPS of .523 during that stretch. Urquidy has averaged more than six innings per start while recording a 0.79 WHIP since allowing four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against Seattle on June 8.

Urquidy is 2-3 with a 5.50 ERA over eight career appearances (seven starts) against the Mariners, including a 1-3 record and 7.58 ERA over four starts this season. He earned his first victory over the Mariners this season in his previous start on Friday, allowing one earned run on four hits and two walks with three strikeouts over six innings in a 5-2 road win.

Right-hander Logan Gilbert (10-4, 2.77) has the starting assignment for Seattle in the series opener. The AL Pitcher of the Month for April, Logan ranks eighth in the AL in ERA. He is 0-1 with a 3.71 ERA over his last three starts after going 6-2 with a 2.90 ERA over his previous 10 starts — allowing more than three runs just once in those outings.

Gilbert is 2-2 with a 4.36 ERA over six career starts against the Astros. He is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA in three starts against Houston this season, allowing just two runs on five hits and one walk with eight strikeouts over six innings in a 3-1 home setback to the Astros on Saturday.

By virtue of their 4-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday, the Mariners completed a sweep of that three-game series and closed to within 10 games of the Astros. The upcoming series will mark the last chance for the Mariners to directly narrow the Astros’ division lead as it will complete the 19-game season series between the clubs. Houston has won nine of 15 meetings thus far.

Dazzling Mariners rookie center fielder Julio Rodriguez continued with his heroics in Wednesday’s game, bashing a three-run home run in the seventh inning to spark the victory. As usual, there was a measure of charisma mixed in, with Rodriguez switching bats prior to his game-clinching plate appearance.

“He said the other one’s sleeping. It’s a day game and not ready to go,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He took a new bat up there and hit a three-run homer. That’s Julio Rodriguez.”

–Field Level Media

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