The two hottest teams in baseball start a three game weekend series Friday

Mashing Mariners host streaking Astros

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It's rare to have the two hottest teams in baseball square off but Friday we get just that as the Mariners host the Astros in the Emerald City of Seattle.

Both teams have won six straight games and did so on the strength of their bats for the majority of the wins. The Astros though find themselves looking up at the Mariners in the American League West which is a huge surprise for almost every baseball prognosticator, even this early in the season.

Seattle was supposed to be rebuilding after a slew of names were moved in the offseason. Stud infielder Jean Segura was traded to the Phillies and his mate up the middle Robinson Cano was also sent to the NL East in a trade to the Mets. One of the best closers in the game Edwin Diaz was also moved with Cano. James Paxton had been a mainstay of the rotation and was also moved to New York, the Yankees for him. Even young outfielder Ben Gamel was swapped out for another young outfielder.

Replacing them is a hodge-podge of players who failed to succeed elsewhere. It is a who's who of "oh he plays for them now?" Jay Bruce has been a journeyman outfielder converted to first base. Former Astros outfielder Domingo Santana was the player they swapped Ben Gamel for in the trade with the Brewers. Tim Beckham is a failed first overall pick who signed for less than $2 million.

Somehow, Seattle is better. Way better.

It's all led to the best offense in baseball up to this point. They lead in almost every important hitting category and some of those leads are significant. They're 13 points better than Houston who is in second in batting average. They're slugging 30 points better than the closest team. Bruce leads the majors in home runs. Santana is the RBI leader. Beckham, the failed top pick, is slashing .347/.429/.694.

The old baseball adage is each game back in the standings takes a week to erase. The Astros trail the Mariners by four games right now. It isn't the end of the season if the Astros have a bad weekend but it does make the climb to the top of the division a little tougher. Despite Seattle's hot start, they're not super scary.

They have beat up on teams who are supposed to be bad this season and the struggling Red Sox. Their pitching is also mediocre, and did I mention their opponents up to this point have been subpar? The Astros offense has been humming these past six games and that shouldn't change as the eight game road trip begins Friday.

This is a measuring stick for the Astros pitching staff which will see Wade Miley start ahead of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. The Mariners do most of their damage in innings one through six so getting to the bullpen late in the game, where the Astros boast a top ten ERA, will be key.

The AL West might be off to a better start than most expected. This will be the first of many series for the Astros to continue to prove the division goes through them.

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After a tightly contested ALCS Game 2, the Astros were able to come out on top with a 3-2 win to even the series. Justin Verlander threw a great game while Carlos Correa came through with the walk-off homer in the bottom of the eleventh inning.

In ALCS Game 1, it was all Yankees as they overpowered Houston at the plate and on the mound en route to a shutout victory to steal a road game to start the seven-game series. Houston turned their attention to Game 2 with a fully-rested Justin Verlander on the mound to try and even the series. Here is how the game unfolded:

Final Score (11 innings): Astros 3, Yankees 2.

Series: tied 1-1.

Winning Pitcher: Josh James.

Losing Pitcher: J.A. Happ.

Astros force Paxton out early after taking early lead


Houston's offense started on the right foot on Sunday in ALCS Game 2. After stranding a runner in the bottom of the first, the Astros scored first in the bottom of the second after Alex Bregman lasered a leadoff single, moved to second on a walk to Yordan Alvarez, advanced to third on a sacrifice fly by Yuli Gurriel, then scored on an RBI-double by Carlos Correa.

The run was a significant momentum boost for Houston, who had been shutout in the Game 1 loss. Although James Paxton would get through that inning with only one run allowed, he would allow back-to-back one-out singles in the bottom of the third, which prompted the Yankees to go to their bullpen early. The moved worked, as Houston would strand both runners to send the game to the fourth.

Verlander does his part


After three perfect innings for Justin Verlander, he would watch his 1-0 lead go away in the top of the fourth. New York's first baserunner of the night came on a leadoff walk allowed by Verlander to start the inning, which turned into a two-run home run blasted by Aaron Judge to center field to put the Yankees up 2-1 to erase Houston's lead.

Those would be the only runs allowed by Verlander, who would do an impressive job of holding the Yankees down over his start. The home run would be one of the few blemishes on a night he was able to induce outs and strikeouts to keep his team in it. He would continue into the seventh inning with a pitch count over 100, but after a two-out walk would be removed to end his night. His final line: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 HR.

Correa wins it in extras

After going down 2-1 earlier in the game, Verlander would leave in a 2-2 tie thanks to a solo home run by George Springer in the bottom of the fifth. Will Harris was first out of Houston's bullpen to finish off the seventh, getting a strikeout for the third out. Harris stayed on the mound to start the eighth, getting an out before issuing a walk to prompt AJ Hinch to bring in his closer, Roberto Osuna.

He would get two quick outs to finish the top of the eighth, but New York's bullpen would also hold in the bottom of the inning to send the gridlocked game to the ninth. In the top of the ninth, Osuna would remain in the game and record a quick 1-2-3 frame to give Houston a chance to walk it off in the bottom half. In the bottom of the ninth, a pinch-hitting Aledmys Diaz would work a two-out walk against Aroldis Chapman, giving the Astros a baserunner, but he would be left on base after a strikeout of Springer to end the inning and force extras. Joe Smith was next out of Houston's bullpen to start the top of the tenth and was able to retire the Yankees in order on seven pitches.

In the bottom of the tenth, New York turned to CC Sabathia for a rare relief appearance to face left-handed Michael Brantley, who would ground out for the first out. Jonathan Loaisiga was next out for the Yankees to try and finish the tenth. Instead, he would issue back-to-back one-out walks, resulting in another move to bring in J.A. Happ. Happ would get out of the jam with a strikeout and flyout to move the game to the eleventh.

Smith would get two quick outs in the top of the eleventh before a walk would end his night in favor of Ryan Pressly, who would allow a single, resulting in another change to Josh James, who would get the third out after a lengthy at-bat. In the bottom of the inning, Carlos Correa evened the series with a solo home run to win the game.

Up Next: With the first two games in Houston accounted for, the ALCS will now shift to the Bronx. In Game 3 at 3:08 PM on Tuesday from New York, the pitching matchup will be the electric Gerrit Cole for Houston, who is 2-0 with a 0.57 ERA and 25 strikeouts after his two ALDS starts going up against Luis Severino who went four shutout innings in his ALDS start.

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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