HOUSTON — Considering it was the last time they will face the Mariners in the regular season and the Astros had suffered a stinging late-game defeat a night earlier, Houston knew that finding a way to pull out a win in Sunday afternoon’s series finale at Minute Maid Park was paramount.
That was evident in the first inning, when the Astros were being aggressive on the basepaths, with Jose Altuve stealing home on the back end of a double steal. It was evident on the mound, where Jake Odorizzi perhaps gave Houston his best start of the season.
“They were hard-fought games,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “They’re a quality team. They’re hurting a little bit today, but every time that you beat somebody in your division, that’s a two-game gain. That was huge today and a big difference between 10 and 12 [games up]. We’re happy we won that game today, and we got some good plays out of some guys.”
The Astros went 12-7 against the Mariners in 2022, winning six of seven meetings between the teams over a span of 10 days. In fact, Seattle has gone 18-6 since July 2, with all six losses coming against Houston. That’s enabled the Astros (67-36) to keep a 12-game lead atop the AL West over the Mariners (55-48) heading into the final two months of the regular season.
The Astros blew Saturday’s game in the ninth inning by allowing the Mariners to score twice, handing Houston only its second loss this season in 59 games in which it led after eight innings. So when Jesse Winker hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning Sunday off Ryne Stanek to tie the game, the Astros had to buckle down.
“It was important, especially after last night’s game, because we all thought we had won that one,” said Odorizzi, who allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings. “It’s good for everybody to bounce back on short notice, a day game. We did what we had to do to win today. That really showed the resilience of his team. We had to scrounge around. Sometimes it’s good for us to win games like that. … It’s nice to win these close games, especially against a team that kind of backdoored us yesterday.”
After Héctor Neris pitched a 1-2-3 10th inning, getting a pair of strikeouts to strand the Mariners’ automatic runner at second base, the Astros went to work in the bottom of the inning. With runners at first and second and no outs, Yuli Gurriel’s two-strike fly ball to right field moved Dubón to third.
Instead of walking Alvarez to load the bases, the Mariners let Brennan Bernardino, making his Major League debut, pitch to the slugger. It didn’t end well. Alvarez, hitless in his previous four at-bats, shot a chopper to left to beat the shift for Houston’s sixth walk-off win of the season.
Alvarez was asked if he thought the Mariners might walk him intentionally to load the bases.
“On the contrary, I thought they were going to pitch around Yuli, and I told myself the situation is going to get to me,” Alvarez said. “I just got focused and said, ‘I was going to be the one.’”
Perhaps the biggest development on Sunday was Odorizzi, whose name has come up in trade rumors. The Astros would like to add some offense — perhaps an outfielder or first baseman — and a backup catcher, along with relief pitching in advance of Tuesday’s 5 p.m. CT Trade Deadline. To achieve that, they might have to move one of their starting pitchers, which is a position of strength.
Odorizzi, who left his previous start with a blister on a finger on his pitching hand, is 4-1 with a 2.82 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP in his past nine starts and figures to play a key role in Houston’s rotation going forward, if he’s not traded.
“I thought Odorizzi threw the ball really well,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It’s about as good as we have ever seen him with the command at the top of the strike zone and good ride on the fastball. We didn’t do much against him all day.”
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