Yordan Alvarez was the difference in Game 1.Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images
The Astros sure know how to keep you on your toes! They pulled off an improbable comeback beating the Mariners 8-7 thanks to a walk-off homer by Yordan Alvarez. Down 7-5, bottom of the ninth inning with Christian Vazquez, Mauricio Dubon, and Jose Altuve due up. Vazquez grounded out to short, David Hensley pinch hit for Dubon and got on with a hit-by-pitch. Jake Meyers pinch ran for Hensley. Altuve struck out swinging. That is where I got nervous. Sure, he's had a rough go of it, but Altuve is still a professional hitter. Clutch situations are his thing. From there, it got really good. Especially considering the future of this franchise.
Jeremy Peña came up with two outs and singled to center moving Meyers over to second base. That set the stage for Alvarez's massive 438-foot homer to send fans home happy! This was the first time in 49 tries that the Astros have come back after trailing in the eighth inning or later by multiple runs. It was also the first walk-off homer in postseason history with a team trailing by multiple runs. With those significant firsts, it's still only the second walk-off homer with a team down to its final out. The other was pretty significant as well: Kirk Gibson's game one walk-off in the 1988 World Series.
While it's awesome to see all this happen, it wouldn't have been necessary if Justin Verlander pitched better, or if the bats woke up earlier. I remember when "fans" were saying they were nervous about this Mariners team. Mariners honks made shirts saying they're a problem, mocking the infamous statement associated with Houston. Well guess what? SUCK IT! That team needs to know its role and shut their mouths! Astros OWN the AL West and rent is past due!
3 factors to watch for in Game 2
1) In game two of this series, the Mariners will send Luis Castillo to the mound. He had an 8-6 record with a 2.99 ERA this season. On away games, he's 4-5 with a 3.29 ERA. He has the pleasure of trying to match up against Framber Valdez. He with a 17-6 record and 2.82 ERA. One could argue Framber should be in the Cy Young discussion this season over game one starter Justin Verlander. I mean, he set a record (25) for most consecutive quality starts (six or more innings, allowing three or less runs) this year. So there's that.
2) Keep in mind: that comeback was no accident. The Mariners' bullpen throws sliders 44% of the time. That's the highest rate in MLB. If Framber can deliver another quality start or something close to it, the bats should get to Castillo. If not, they can attack that bullpen again. I fully expect Astros' manager Dusty Baker to continue pulling all the right strings in game two. He led this team to 106 wins this season, despite many calls for his head.
3) Another thing to look at is the Mariners' record against the Astros this season. At a paltry 7-12 with a run differential of -8, I don't think there's much to be scared of. Do they play the Astros tough? They sure do. Should Astro fans be worried? Absolutely not. When your team is more talented and your manager makes all the right moves, there's not much to be worried about. Highly doubt they pitch to Yordan again in a high leverage situation. That's fine because someone else will step up. Astros in three.
The Houston Astros were in need of some serious help in the bullpen with Phil Maton, Hector Neris, and Ryne Stanek likely leaving this year in free agency.
The Houston Astros have acquired RHP Dylan Coleman from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RHP Carlos Mateo. pic.twitter.com/hDYuBLn2Kv
— Houston Astros (@astros) December 6, 2023
While some fans were getting concerned about the quiet offseason, the club has made two moves this week to get the ball rolling.
First the team signed Victor Caratini to be the backup catcher, and now they have added some relief pitching.
The Astros traded pitching prospect Carlos Mateo to the Royals for RHP pitcher Dylan Coleman.
Coleman appeared in 96 games in the past three seasons for KC, including 68 games in 2022 and 23 games last season. He has a career 3.88 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He’s fastball (95 mph), slider (81) and cutter (90) and walked 57 batters and struck out 99 in 92 2/3 innings.
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) December 6, 2023
Coleman is under club control for the next several years, and made just over $700,000 in 2022. With the Astros right up against the tax threshold, this is a good way to add to the bullpen without having to hand out a large contract.
The Royals had a tough roster decision to make with Coleman, and the Astros made the decision easy for them by making the trade.
Something to note
There's a reason Kansas City wasn't determined to protect Coleman from the Rule 5 Draft. Despite his decent numbers over the last three seasons, 2023 was a rough year for him, posting an 8.84 ERA over 23 games.
In fact, Coleman pitched more innings (30.2) for the Royals AAA team than he did for the big league club (18.1) in 2023.
Hopefully, the Astros can get him back on track this season with some help from their highly touted player development program.
You can watch some of his 2022 highlights above.