Houston gets the win in Seattle

Astros use timely offense to take opener from Mariners

Astros' Jose Altuve
Houston's offense plated some timely runs late in Monday's game to beat the Mariners. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

Houston's offense plated some timely runs late in Monday's game to beat the Mariners.

After taking two of three in Arlington against the Rangers, the Astros started the second of this three-leg road trip with an opener against the Mariners in Seattle on Monday night. They would grab and hold on to a late one-run lead, taking the first of the three-game set.

Final Score: Astros 4, Mariners 3

Astros' Record: 78-53, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Phil Maton (4-0)

Losing Pitcher: Joe Smith (2-3)

Houston scores first, Mariners respond

Things looked up for the Astros in the top of the first inning, as they would seven batters to the plate, scoring the game's first two runs. The first came on an RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, followed later by a sac fly by Kyle Tucker, putting Houston on top 2-0 before the Mariners had a chance to get to the plate themselves.

The offensive momentum shifted Seattle's way after that, as they would cut the lead in half against Luis Garcia with a solo homer in the second. Garcia did well otherwise, dealing with some traffic but holding the one-run lead through his first five innings. He returned in the top of the sixth, but after a leadoff walk followed by a single, he would not get an out in the inning before being removed. Brooks Raley came in to try and strand the inherited runners, but after a double play would allow a go-ahead two-run homer, finalizing Garcia's line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 78 P.

Astros go back in front in the eighth

Raley would finish the sixth, then Phil Maton would come in as Houston's next reliever in the bottom of the seventh. He kept it a one-run game, working around a two-out walk and error to send the 3-2 game to the top of the eighth. That inning, the Astros would score their first runs since the top of the first, getting a leadoff single by Yuli Gurriel, who scored on a Kyle Tucker RBI single, his second RBI of the game. Tucker would also come in to score, putting Houston back in front on a go-ahead single by Jake Meyers to make it a 4-3 lead.

Astros take the opener

Ryne Stanek would take over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth for the Astros, tossing a 1-2-3 frame by striking out all three Mariners he faced. With the lead still one run in the bottom of the ninth, Houston turned to their closer Ryan Pressly. Although he struggled to find the zone early in the inning, issuing a leadoff walk, he would rebound to retire the next three batters to wrap up the win.

Up Next: The middle of this three-game set will be another 9:10 PM Central start on Tuesday. Lance McCullers Jr. (10-4, 3.32 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, with the Mariners set to start Yusei Kikuchi (7-7, 4.33 ERA).

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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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