Houston's bats unload on Seattle

Yordan Alvarez returns as Astros romp Mariners in lopsided win

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

After taking two of three against the Giants earlier in the week, the Astros had a day off on Thursday before resuming play at home Friday night. The series opener of the three-game set against the Mariners had Framber Valdez on the mound, and Yordan Alvarez activated and back in the lineup. Here's a quick rundown of the game:

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 1.

Record: 9-10, third in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Framber Valdez (1-2, 1.90 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Nestor Cortes (0-1, 15.26 ERA).

Seattle scores first, then Alvarez homers as Houston's offense explodes 

After successful command in his appearances so far in 2020, Framber Valdez had struggles in the top of the first inning Friday night, issuing two walks, hitting a batter, and allowing a sac fly to put Seattle up 1-0 right away. He would get through the inning; then, his offense went to work for a massive inning of their own.

After Yusei Kikuchi, the expected starter for Seattle, was a late scratch, Nestor Cortes would begin the game on the mound for the Mariners. The Astros jumped all over him, starting with an RBI-single by Alex Bregman to tie the game. With two runners on base, that brought up Yordan Alvarez for his first plate appearance of 2020. What he did with it should be of little surprise for those that watched the 2019 AL Rookie of the Year last season:

That gave Houston a 4-1 lead, but that was just the beginning. They'd go on to make it a nine-run inning, getting a solo home run by Yuli Gurriel to make it back-to-back homers after Alvarez, a two-RBI double by Martin Maldonado, an RBI-double by Josh Reddick, and then a final run on an error, making it 9-1. After his homer, Gurriel followed that with a triple in his next at-bat, leading off the bottom of the second with an immediate runner in scoring position. Carlos Correa drove him in with an RBI-groundout, getting the Astros to double digits at 10-1.

Valdez finishes six, bullpen wraps it up

After the erratic first where he allowed the run, Valdez was able to settle in for the following innings, battling back to keep Seattle off the board over the next five, pitching through six en route to the easy win. His final line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 0 HR.

Yordan Alvarez would record another RBI, going to the plate with bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth before being hit by a pitch to bring in another run and make it 11-1. With Valdez's night done, Brandon Bailey took over in the top of the seventh and was able to erase a walk and a single for a scoreless inning, then returned for another in the eighth. Cy Sneed would go to the mound in the ninth and finished off the ten-run victory.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The Mariners have Nick Margevicius (0-0, 3.24 ERA) slated to make a start, while Cristian Javier (1-1, 4.02 ERA) will continue his rookie campaign for the Astros.

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Jose Altuve is crushing the baseball. Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.

The Astros and White Sox playing through the weekend at Minute Maid Park is their most interesting series since the 2005 World Series the ChiSox won in a sweep. Both are clear 2021 World Series contenders. We already know the Astros won't get swept four straight this time as their mashfest at the plate continued in Thursday's 10-2 coast of a series starting victory. So far in June the Astros are a spiffy 11-4. And have lost ground to American League West leading Oakland. The A's are 12-2 this month and take a two game division lead into the weekend.

The Astro offense is humming and then some, leading Major League Baseball in runs scored per game, batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. The runs per game gap between the Astros and second-best Los Angeles Dodgers is larger than the gap from the Dodgers to 10th best. The Astros have hit at least two dingers in their last 10 games. That ties the MLB record set two years ago by an atrocious Orioles' squad that finished 54-108.

Jose Altuve's days of being a .340 hitter are almost certainly finished, and he has a paltry six doubles so far this season. But it's not like a .298 batting average is feeble, and with his home run surge at eight homers in his last 10 games Altuve is now on pace to hit 38 homers this season. 38! His career high of 31 was set two seasons ago. The single season record for a second baseman is 43, hit by Davey Johnson in 1973.

Michel Brantley is a .340 hitter this season. .342 to be exact going into Friday night. Since coming off the injured list he is hitting a mere .532 with 17 hits in 32 at bats. He's been a doubles machine though with diminished home run power. So naturally Brantley belted a three run shot in his first at bat Thursday, snapping a drought of 99 homerless ABs.

Losing Alex Bregman to a quad muscle pull for likely multiple weeks is a blow but if it had to happen this isn't the worst of times for it. Bregman is 0 for his last 19, and over his last 18 games hit just .174. In his first game replacing Bregman Abraham Toro homered and knocked in four.

While the offense can be overpowering it certainly isn't carrying the team. Over the last 18 games Astros' starting pitchers have a 2.38 earned run average.

Rockets looking to win the lottery

The NBA Draft lottery is Tuesday night. Hakeem Olajuwon will represent the Rockets on the freaks and geeks stage of non-playoff teams. The moment of truth for the Rockets is when the fifth pick envelope is opened. If it's a Rockets card it's a horrible blow to the pace of rebuilding efforts because the Rockets would lose the pick to Oklahoma City and in exchange get the 18th pick from Miami. When "The Athletic" asked General Manager Rafael Stone if dropping from top four to 18 would be a set back to the Rockets' rebuild, he absurdly said "not really." Either Stone was spinning in a spirit of optimism, or the Rockets have a not very smart guy as GM. He gets the benefit of the doubt toward the former. The Rockets have a 52.1 percent chance of keeping their pick.

The NBA coaching carousel is spinning hard. Seven vacancies, with another one or two possible. Rick Carlisle's sudden resignation in Dallas makes the Mavericks' opening the clearly best available gig. The Mavs have 22 year old superstar Luka Doncic and that's that. The Mavericks haven't won a playoff series since winning the NBA title back in 2011.

Doc Rivers's coaching job is presumably safe in Philadelphia but after blowing a 26 point lead at home to go down three games to two in their series vs. Atlanta, if the 76ers are taken out Doc adds to the worst gag job resume of any coach in NBA history. Three times Rivers has coached a team that blew a 3-1 series lead and lost in seven. No other coach has twice lost a series after leading 3-1. The Rockets did it to Rivers's Clippers in 2015. The Nuggets did it to Doc last year ending his tenure with the Clippers. Back in 2003 Doc was coaching Tracy McGrady and Orlando when the Detroit Pistons rallied from three games to one down and make the Magic disappear.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Rather cool and coincidental that the giveaway at Sunday's Astros-White Sox game is a Father's Day Carlos Correa jersey. Carlos and wife Daniella announced this week that they are expecting their first child.

2. If the Hawks eliminate the 76ers Clint Capela would be entitled to a hearty chuckle at Daryl Morey's expense.

3. With apologies to Starburst, Best fruit candies: Bronze-Chuckles Silver-Skittles Gold-Fruit Slices

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