Astros return home to face hot Mariners


The Houston Astros needed a 10th-inning rally against the cellar-dwelling Kansas City Royals on Thursday to win 6-3, avert a four-game series sweep and snap a four-game losing skid.

When the Astros hit the road for a seven-game swing through Anaheim and Kansas City, the expectation was success. Instead, the Astros returned home from a losing trip in need of recovery with the Seattle Mariners set to visit for a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros are also eyeing the return of two-time All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman, who has missed two-plus months with a left quad strain. Bregman has suffered setbacks during his rehab but appears close to rejoining the club, and not a moment too soon for the reeling Astros.

“Hopefully we get Breggy back pretty soon,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Slowly but surely we’re trying to get whole. We’ve been missing some key guys on our team, and people want to know what’s wrong. Well, what’s wrong a lot of times is when you’re missing key guys.

“Nobody gives you any consolation for it and you don’t want to use it as an excuse; but, any time I can play my first team against your first team, most of the time I’m going to win.”

Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (9-4, 3.22 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Astros against Seattle on Friday. McCullers has posted consecutive losing decisions, allowing six runs on 14 hits and four walks with 12 strikeouts over 10 1/3 innings with a .903 OPS allowed against the Twins and Angels.

He had suffered just one loss in his previous 15 appearances, going 8-1 with a 2.68 ERA and 108 strikeouts over 90 2/3 innings in that span.

McCullers is 8-3 with a 2.93 ERA over 15 career starts against the Mariners, including an 8-6 road victory on July 27, during which he allowed four runs on six hits and three walks, with eight strikeouts, over six innings.

Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (7-6, 3.82) will start the series opener for the Mariners. He did not factor into the decision of his previous start, Seattle’s 9-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 14; he allowed three runs on five hits and four walks, with five strikeouts, over 4 1/3 innings. Kikuchi has recorded 13 quality starts in his 22 starts this season.

Kikuchi will make his ninth career start against the Astros and fourth this season. He is 1-1 with a 3.79 ERA in 2021, including a scoreless outing on April 29 during which Kikuchi allowed one hit and two walks, with seven strikeouts, over seven innings in the Mariners’ 1-0 road victory.

The Mariners completed a three-game road sweep of the Texas Rangers on Thursday, riding a two-run, 11th-inning home run from Ty France into a 9-8 victory that pushed them to 10 games over .500 for the first time this season. Seattle has won eight of 10 games to remain firmly in the American League wild-card picture, a surprise considering the Mariners’ minus-42 run differential.

“It’s a special group, it really is,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said after Seattle blew a five-run, ninth-inning lead yet still won. “That’s a long day. I really love this team. I really do.”

–Field Level Media

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