Heading into this last weekend, the M’s were the hottest team in baseball, but the division-leading Astros had something to say, winning all three at T-Mobile Park. The weekend had all the momentum as well: 14-game win streak, All-Star Game logo unveiling, firework show, two consecutive sell outs, perfect weather. Year after year, Houston always happens to be Seattle’s kryptonite. One good thing to look forward to is after the M’s travel to Houston for three next week, that will be the last time that they have to face-off in the regular season.
Friday night got off to quite the interesting start. 2023 ASG logo announced, and Bret Boone and Mike Cameron (both members of the 2001 AL All-Star team, where Seattle was the host city for the first time) were out to throw the ceremonial first pitch. The catcher? Julio Rodriguez. It was a successful strike by Cammy, but Julio was scratched from the lineup approximately 40 minutes prior to first pitch. That left every single M’s fan not only confused but also concerned. Did he get placed on the COVID-IL? Did he pull his back or injure himself after cranking out 81 bombs in the derby? No way Jerry Dipoto traded our 21-year-old phenom for Washington’s Juan Soto? There was certainly a lot of speculation.
It turns out that in the final game before the break, Julio was caught stealing in the first, where he noticeably jammed his left wrist on his head-first slide into second. He played the rest of that game, all three rounds of the derby and two ABs and time in the outfield in the All-Star Game.
The goal for Julio was to play Saturday, then Sunday. He did not appear in a game against Houston. Mariner fans are holding their breath that he doesn’t need to take a trip to the IL and will play tonight or in this home series against the team he had his biggest homerun of the year against a week ago, the Texas Rangers.
The video of Julio injuring his left wrist is attached, courtesy of Daniel Kramer.
With no Julio, both Seattle’s baseball team and fans lost their “spark”, even though Friday was sold out. Mariner-killers Jose Altuve and Martin Maldonado had home runs off of Marco Gonzales. Seattle failed to get much going offensively against Jose Uriqudy (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER), even though he has had prior struggles against Seattle this year. The M’s had a big opportunity in the eighth, where they were down three, bases-loaded, and Kyle Lewis at the dish. Astros’ rookie SS Jeremy Pena made a leaping catch which would have scored at least two, if not all three. The final was HOU 5 – 2 SEA.
Game two came around 14 hours after the conclusion of the opener, and it was one of the best pitching matchups this year: Logan Gilbert against Justin Verlander. Houston got two in the fourth, but Seattle’s newest addition, Carlos Santana made it a one run game on a solo shot in the seventh. It was Verlander’s day unfortunately for Seattle, where he hit 99 MPH four times in the seventh, and eventually became MLB’s first 13-win starter after Houston won game two, 3-1.
After losing their first series in what feels like forever, Robbie Ray toed the rubber on Sunday’s finale, looking to keep on his solid run of outings. The shutout didn’t last long…at all. Altuve went yard on pitch one. The one-run lead did not last long…at all. Jeremy Pena put one into Edgar’s in pitch three of the game. Ray looked like the Astros’ pregame BP pitcher. This one was never the M’s game, losing 5-8 despite making it close a few times throughout. OF Jesse Winker pulled up gimpy after attempting to beat out an infield single, and he will likely go on an IL-stint with a sprained ankle,.
Seattle now welcomes in the other Texas MLB squad, the Texas Rangers. They come in angry after what Seattle did to them down in Arlington in the series before the break. Despite all of their off-season spending, the Rangers are eight games under. 500, going 3-7 in their last ten ballgames. It’s Chris Flexen against Glenn Otto in game one Monday night. Tuesday night looks to be George Kirby’s return from AAA against Dane Dunning. Wednesday final matinee features Jon Gray for Texas, where Seattle's starter is TBD at the moment.
Hopefully Julio can suit up again, and Seattle can bounce back to their winning ways like they did against these Rangers one week ago. The good news from this weekend, which sounds crazy to say, is that Seattle still holds the third spot of three in the AL wild card race. Toronto must’ve taken their sweep to the M’s personally, where they destroyed the Red Sox at Fenway, and have now a 1.5 game lead over Seattle for the second wild card spot.