Houston has won four straight

Kyle Tucker's walk-off homer for Astros completes sweep of Mariners

Kyle Tucker of the Astros
Photo by Rich Schultz / Getty Images

Kyle Tucker of the Astros

With the series victory already locked up, the Astros were going for the clean sweep on Sunday against the Mariners and looking for their fourth-straight win. A quick rundown of Sunday's series finale:

Final Score: Astros 3, Mariners 2.

Record: 11-10, third in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Ryan Pressly (1-1, 6.35 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Erik Swanson (0-2, 15.19 ERA).

Trading runs early

After a scoreless first inning on both sides, the Astros took advantage of another defensive miscue by Seattle in the bottom of the second to grab an early lead. Abraham Toro, a late addition to the lineup in the DH spot with Yordan Alvarez being a late scratch, was able to reach base on a two-out error. He would come around to score on back-to-back singles by Martin Maldonado and George Springer, putting Houston ahead 1-0.

Seattle responded by manufacturing some runs of their own in the next inning, getting a runner on base by a hit-by-pitch to lead it off. They turned that into run with an RBI-single, then took a 2-1 lead with another later in the inning. The Astros would tie the game in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI-single by Martin Maldonado.

McCullers Jr. with another impressive start as game stays tied late

Despite the two-run third inning, Lance McCullers Jr. was still putting together another strong start. That was the only inning he allowed a hit over the first five, then returned to start the sixth. He allowed a leadoff double to start the top of the sixth, but with his pitch count rising and after allowing a two-out walk, would have Dusty Baker come to make a move to the bullpen. Andre Scrubb would get the final out of the inning, closing out McCullers Jr.'s line: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7K, 0 HR.

Scrubb returned for the top of the seventh, but after two outs would be removed in favor of Houston's next reliever, Enoli Paredes. He would get the final out of the sixth, and continued on in the seventh, getting one out and allowing a single before Houston would move to Blake Taylor, who finished the inning despite allowing a walk.

Astros walk it off

Houston would fail to go-ahead in the bottom of the eighth, keeping it a 2-2 stalemate heading to the ninth. With Ryan Pressly already warmed up, he would take the top of the inning and be able to keep Seattle off the board with a 1-2-3 inning. That set the Astros up for a walk-off, and Kyle Tucker would oblige with a solo home run to complete the sweep and extend Houston's winning streak to four games.

Up Next: The Astros will close out this homestand with two games against the Rockies, the first being Monday at 8:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Kyle Freeland (2-0, 2.45 ERA) on the mound for Colorado going against Brandon Bielak (2-0, 1.76 ERA) for Houston.

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Will robot umps improve baseball? Composite Getty Images.

Major League Baseball could test robot umpires as part of a challenge system in spring training next year, which could lead to regular-season use in 2026.

MLB has been experimenting with the automated ball-strike system in the minor leagues since 2019 but is still working on the shape of the strike zone.

“I said at the owners meeting it is not likely that we would bring ABS to the big leagues without a spring training test. OK, so if it’s ’24 that leaves me ’25 as the year to do your spring training test if we can get these issues resolved, which would make ’26 a viable possibility,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday during a meeting with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. "But is that going to be the year? I’m not going to be flat-footed on that issue.

“We have made material progress. I think that the technology is good to a 100th of an inch. The technology in terms of the path of the ball is pluperfect.”

Triple-A ballparks have used ABS this year for the second straight season, but there is little desire to call the strike zone as the cube defined in the rule book and MLB has experimented with modifications during minor league testing.

The ABS currently calls strikes solely based on where the ball crosses the midpoint of the plate, 8.5 inches from the front and the back. The top of the strike zone was increased to 53.5% of batter height this year from 51%, and the bottom remained at 27%.

"We do have technical issues surrounding the definition of the strike zone that still need to be worked out,” Manfred said.

After splitting having the robot alone for the first three games of each series and a human with a challenge system in the final three during the first 2 1/2 months of the Triple-A season, MLB on June 25 switched to an all-challenge system in which a human umpire makes nearly all decisions.

Each team currently has three challenges in the Pacific Coast League and two in the International League. A team retains its challenge if successful, similar to the regulations for big league teams with video reviews.

“The challenge system is more likely or more supported, if you will, than the straight ABS system,” players' association head Tony Clark said earlier Tuesday at a separate session with the BBWAA. "There are those that have no interest in it at all. There are those that have concerns even with the challenge system as to how the strike zone itself is going to be considered, what that looks like, how consistent it is going to be, what happens in a world where Wi-Fi goes down in the ballpark or the tech acts up on any given night.

“We’re seeing those issues, albeit in minor league ballparks," Clark added. "We do not want to end up in a world where in a major league ballpark we end up with more questions than answers as to the integrity of that night’s game or the calls associated with it.”

Playing rules changes go before an 11-member competition committee that includes four players, an umpire and six team representatives. Ahead of the 2023 season, the committee adopted a pitch clock and restrictions on defensive shifts without support from players.

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