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Mariners vs Astros Divisional Round Preview


(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners will be taking on the Houston Astros in a best-of-three series this Tuesday. The Mariners, who are coming off a hard-fought sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays, are looking to keep their winning ways alive and are hosting their first home playoff game in over 20 years. On the other hand, the Astros are entering the series as the No. 1 seed in the American League and are looking to make it back to the World Series for the fourth time in the past six seasons.


The Astros currently sit as -235 favourites to win the series according to FanDuel odds.


But how do these teams stack up against each other heading into this derby? That’s what we’re here to do. We’ll be breaking down each position and aspect of both teams to see who really has the edge heading into this series.


Starting Pitching


Edge: Houston


Seattle’s rotation is no joke. With the likes of Luis Castillo – who shut down a high-flying Blue Jays offense in the Wild Card series – Robbie Ray and Logan Gilbert, they are a force to be reckoned with. But Houston’s pitching has been on another level this season.


They rank first or nearly first in every major pitching category – T-1st hits allowed, 2nd ERA, 2nd WHIP, 2nd home runs allowed – powered by a shutdown rotation. Headlined by Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander, who posted a 1.75 ERA in 175 innings of action, the emergence of Cristian Javier and the return of Lance McCullers Jr., they easily make the case as one of the premier – if not the best – rotations in baseball. Houston gets the edge here.


Bullpen


Edge: Houston


This one is close. In the second half of the MLB season, both bullpens were arguably some of the best in baseball. They both posted very similar ERAs – Seattle (3.16), Houston (2.98). But what separates these bullpens to give Houston the slight edge is the strikeout power from their pen.


They averaged 11.33 K/9 in the second half – the best in baseball – compared to Seattle’s 9.32 K/9. In the playoffs, the need for relievers who can deliver a clutch strikeout is huge. And Houston is just slightly better at that over Seattle.


Offense


Edge: Houston


Seattle does have some firepower at the dish. We already know about Julio Rodriguez and Eugenio Suarez. But they also possess some other key performers who didn’t light up the stat sheet during the regular season. Cal Raleigh and Adam Frazier both came up huge with big time hits in the Wild Card series that ultimately helped them complete the sweep of Toronto. But even with these underrated performers, it’s hard to give Seattle the edge over Houston.


Houston features a dynamic lineup that can put up a score at any time. Yordan Alvarez is at the forefront. Arguably the most complete hitter in baseball; he’s the entire package. The resurgence of Jose Altuve this season was also huge for this offense. When you sprinkle in Kyle Tucker, Jeremy Pena and Alex Bregman, you’re given a much more proven and dynamic lineup versus what Seattle brings to the table.


Defense


Edge: Seattle


Houston is a very defensively sound team. They ranked sixth in fielding percentage (0.987) during the season. But, Seattle’s motto is good defense.


Headlined by 2020 gold glove winner J.P Crawford plus the speedy Julio Rodriguez and sound glove of Adam Frazier, they led the Mariners to a .988 fielding percentage; good for second in the MLB. The Mariners also feature three of the best fielders at the most important positions on the field – centre field, shortstop and second base. Great fielding can make-or-break a team in the playoffs (just ask the Toronto Blue Jays!). Seattle gets the edge here.


Managing


Edge: Houston


Scott Servais is a fan favourite in Seattle and has allowed a bullpen he’s managed to become elite under his wing. He’s led some good seasons so far in his tenure with Seattle, with 2022 being his best season so far.


But on the other hand, Dusty Baker is a premier manager of the league. While he’s never won a World Series, he’s led five different teams to the postseason in his lifetime and came within two victories of winning his first ever World Series last season. He ranks ninth all-time in wins (2,093) and is overall a much more proven manager versus Servais.


Series Prediction


Winner: Astros in four


It’s tough to go against the Astros in this one. They enter this series with a 106-56 record, good for their second-best regular season finish in franchise history. On paper, they outclass Seattle in nearly every facet of the game. I do think Seattle will pull off one win – particularly on game three at home – but I believe this stacked Astros squad, alongside the playoff experience they possess over Seattle, will be too much to handle for this inexperienced Mariners squad. Astros in four. Book it.


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