Houston's offense was firing on all cylinders

Astros crush Mariners in lopsided series opener

Houston's lineup obliterated the baseball in Friday's opener against the Mariners. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

With a win to avoid the four-game sweep the day prior, the Astros put the recent road struggles behind them as they turned their attention to division-rival Seattle to start a homestand on Friday night. Houston clearly had their full attention at the plate, crushing the ball throughout the game to get the lopsided win.

Final Score: Astros 12, Mariners 3

Astros' Record: 72-50, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (10-4)

Losing Pitcher: Yusei Kikuchi (7-7)

Houston's offense returns home with a bang

Unlike the unsuccessful games at the plate in parts of their recent losing streak, the Astros looked much more like the team that roared back to win in Thursday's finale against the Royals. They jumped all over Yusei Kikuchi, starting in the bottom of the first, getting two runs on an RBI triple by Carlos Correa and an RBI groundout by Yordan Alvarez.

In the second, a one-out walk set up a two-run blast by Jake Meyers, doubling the lead to 4-0. They continued to tee off against Seattle's starter in the third, getting a leadoff single to set up a two-run bomb by Alvarez, followed by a solo homer by Yuli Gurriel to make it back-to-back jacks and extending the lead to 7-0. They would eventually chase Kikuchi out of the game before finishing the inning.

McCullers Jr. posts another quality start and gets win number 10

Meanwhile, Lance McCullers Jr. was cruising over that span, having retired the Mariners lineup in order through the first three frames. Their first hit against him was a loud one, a two-out solo homer in the top of the fourth to make it 7-1. His offense got that back and more in the bottom of the fourth, continuing to make strong contact with an RBI double by Alvarez, an RBI single by Gurriel, then a sac fly later in the inning by Chas McCormick to make it a nine-run game at 10-1.

After a scoreless top of the inning by McCullers Jr., Houston put up two more runs behind him in the bottom of the fifth on a leadoff solo homer by Martin Maldonado and RBI groundout by Michael Brantley, scoring Jose Altuve, who knocked a triple in front of him, making it 12-1. McCullers Jr. would toss another inning in the top of the sixth, allowing a run on a two-out RBI single, but finishing with a quality start nonetheless: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 HR, 102 P.

Astros take the opener in dominant fashion

After leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, Houston handed the ball to their bullpen in the top of the seventh, bringing in Brooks Raley. He kept the lead at ten runs, hitting a batter but striking out the other three batters he faced. Pedro Baez took over in the top of the eighth, allowing a one-out solo homer to make it 12-3 but getting through the rest of the inning. Next out was Yimi Garcia, who wrapped things up in the top of the ninth with a scoreless inning to finish the lopsided win.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will get underway at 3:10 PM Central on Saturday. The pitching matchup features Jake Odorizzi (5-6, 4.74 ERA) for the Astros and Logan Gilbert (5-4, 4.42 ERA) for the Mariners.

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The NASCAR Cup Series heads for Michigan International Speedway for the FireKeepers 400. MIS is one of the fastest racetracks in the country, as cars are capable of reaching speeds of 201-205 miles per hour. Hopefully, we will see a safe race considering the speeds we see here. We will more than likely see a race that is vastly different from what we saw last here when the drivers utilized the draft to pass around this track. This year, the cars are less aero-dependent and will be much more spread out. The drivers will need to continue to manage their tires as they have been doing all year.

Last weekend at Indy, Tyler Reddick captured his second victory of 2022 in dramatic fashion. The race came down to numerous restarts where drivers would drive way too deep into the first corner and run into each other each time. This was the central theme of the race, as restarts pretty much decided everything. We saw drivers like AJ Allmendinger, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney get swept up in wrecks in turn one. On the final restart, Ross Chastain decided he didn’t want to be a part of these shenanigans and took the access road that skipped turn one. This moved catapulted him to the lead with Tyler Reddick as the two battled for the lead in a two-lap shootout. When the dust settled, Reddick came away victorious and Ross Chastain was black flagged for shortcutting.

The finish of this race sparked a serious debate among drivers and fans alike about ditching the Indianapolis road course and returning to the oval in 2023. Personally, this doesn’t make any sense to me. While yes, turn one is difficult to maneuver, it’s mainly because drivers all decide to send it as deep as they can, not because of the racetrack configuration. It’s also a bit disingenuous as for years, drivers and fans have been saying they don’t want to see the oval and that the track is designed for IndyCar. If I had to choose, I would say NASCAR just stop going to Indy and go to the short track down the road at Lucas Oil Raceway Park. We have seen so many great races there, and I think the Cup Series would be perfect for that track. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how NASCAR responds to this and what they decide to do for next season.

Kurt Busch will be out for the third consecutive week as he continues to recover from a concussion. This has been tough to hear about, and now there are legitimate concerns that he will not return to racing. There is a good chance however that 23XII could be saving him for the playoffs which are coming up.

For now, Ty Gibbs will continue to fill in for Busch. In his two starts the young phenom has performed extremely well, finishing 16th at Pocono and 17th at Indy. It’s clear that this young man can drive these cars, the only problem is finding a place for him to run next season.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Martin Truex Jr. By any other standard, the season that Truex is having has been great. Constantly up front, leading laps and just overall contending. Unfortunately for him, 2022 hasn’t been just any average season. With 14 winners and Truex not being one of them, he is on the playoff bubble even though he is fourth in points. While his playoff future maybe uncertain right now, there are some good racetracks he is going to where can easily get that first win, and Michigan is one of them. Over the last four races here, he currently has the highest average finish, the highest percentage of laps led, but no victories. I see that changing this week. Toyota and Gibbs have been fast this season as Truex’s teammates have all punched their tickets to the playoffs. Look for Truex to be next in line.

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