Houston's bullpen woes continue

Astros' pitching implodes as Mariners complete improbable comeback

Astros' Jose Altuve
Despite a big lead given by their offense, Houston's pitching couldn't keep it in a major implosion on Monday in Seattle. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Despite a big lead given by their offense, Houston's pitching couldn't keep it in a major implosion on Monday in Seattle.

After capping off a 5-1 homestand with a three-game sweep of the Rangers, the Astros picked up on the road Monday night in Seattle. After taking a large early lead, it looked like Houston might cruise to the win, but the Mariners had other plans, causing a collapse by Houston's pitching to make the improbable comeback.

Final Score: Mariners 11, Astros 8

Astros' Record: 61-40, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Kendall Graveman (4-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (1-2)

Astros explode for six in the first

Houston came out firing against Seattle's young starting pitcher, Darren McCaughan, making his first career start and second appearance. It all came with one out, with two reaching base before an RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, an RBI double by Carlos Correa, then back-to-back homers by Kyle Tucker, a three-run blast, and Abraham Toro, a solo homer to make it 6-0 before the Mariners could reach the plate.

Mariners roar back into it against Garcia

That provided Luis Garcia plenty of run support to work with, and through the first three innings, it looked as though the Mariners would have a tough time getting on the board against him. After allowing a leadoff single in the bottom of the first, he induced a double play en route to retiring nine in a row to face the minimum through three frames. After a Martin Maldonado solo homer in the top of the fourth to extend the lead to 7-0, Seattle bounced back in the bottom of the fourth, loading the bases with one out to set up a bases-clearing double to cut the score to 7-3.

Maldonado got one of those back in the top of the fifth, hitting an RBI single, but Garcia's struggles continued in the bottom of the fifth. Seattle put two on base via singles, and with two outs, Kyle Seager would make it a two-run game with a three-run blast to make it 8-6, ending Garcia's day. Bryan Abreu entered and notched the final out of the frame, finalizing Garcia's line: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 87 P.

Houston's pitching implodes to hand Mariners the opener

After finishing the fifth for Garcia, Abreu remained in the game for Houston but would see a one-out walk come back to bite him, with the Mariners getting within a run with a two-out RBI single to make it 8-7. That prompted Dusty Baker to move on to Blake Taylor, who would get a strikeout to finish the inning. Taylor continued in the bottom of the seventh and was able to sit down the Mariners in order to retire four in a row to send the game to the eighth.

Still holding on to the one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth, Houston moved on to Ryne Stanek, but he would put two on while getting two outs before Dusty Baker had to play a lefty matchup to bring in Brooks Raley. Raley would not maintain the lead, issuing a walk to load the bases then giving up a go-ahead grand slam to give Seattle their first lead, three runs at 11-8. The Astros would go scoreless in the top of the ninth, dropping the opener to the Mariners, who completed the comeback.

Up Next: The middle game of this series between the Astros and Mariners will be another late 9:10 PM Central start on Tuesday. Houston will hand the ball to Lance McCullers Jr. (7-2, 3.04 ERA), while Seattle is expected to send Chris Flexen (9-4, 3.35 ERA) to the mound.

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More changes are coming in MLB. Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corbin Carroll just got a little more dangerous. Same for Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz and the rest of baseball's fastest players.

Major League Baseball wants umpires to crack down on obstruction, and the commissioner's office outlined plans during a call with managers this week. MLB staff also will meet managers in person during spring training to go over enforcement.

The increased emphasis is only on the bases and not at home plate. The focus is on infielders who drop a knee or leg down in front of a bag while receiving a throw, acting as a deterrence for aggressive baserunning and creating an increased risk of injuries.

“I think with everything, they’re trying to make the game a little safer to avoid some unnecessary injuries," Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said Friday at the team's facility in Florida. “The intentions are always good. It comes down to how it affects the players and the games. I’m sure there will be plays where one team doesn’t like it or one team does.”

With more position players arriving at spring training every day, the topic likely will come up more and more as teams ramp up for the season.

“We'll touch on that. We'll show them some video of what’s good and what’s not,” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You know, it’s going to be a little adjustment.”

Making obstruction a point of emphasis fits in with an ongoing effort by MLB to create more action. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, which could lead to some disgruntled players and managers as enforcement is stepped up, but it also means it won't create long replay deliberations.

A package of rule changes last season — including pitch clocks, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts — had a dramatic effect. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, up from 2,486 in 2022 and the most since 1987.

MLB changed a different baserunning rule this offseason, widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory. MLB also shortened the pitch clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games.

“Last year, you know, a lot of our preparation was around like, especially just the unknown of the clock and making sure like we’re really buttoned up on that," New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These guys are so used to it in so many ways that sometimes I even forget.”

Increased enforcement could lead to more action on the basepaths. But a significant element of MLB's motivation is injury prevention.

Top players have hurt hands or wrists on headfirst slides into bases blocked by a fielder. White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. sprained his left wrist when he slid into Jonathan Schoop's lower left leg on a steal attempt during an August 2022 game against Detroit.

“It’s been happening for a while. It’s been getting out of control," Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I know some of the players complained about it the last two years.”

While acknowledging his reputation as a significant offender, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott didn't sound too worried about his play.

“We like to fight for outs at second base,” he said. "It’s never on purpose, blocking the base. For me, or someone covering second to the shortstop side, it’s a natural move for your knee to go down to reach the ball. It’s never intentional. I guess we’ll figure out how to maneuver around that.”

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