HOUSTON — Since it was the last time they faced the Mariners in the regular season and the Astros had suffered a painful defeat in the late game the night before, Houston knew that finding a way to win in the series finale of Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park was paramount.
That was evident in the first inning, when the Astros were aggressive on the basepaths, with Jose Altuve stealing home on a double steal. It was clearly on the mound, where Jake Odorizzi gave Houston perhaps his best start of the season.
Still, it wasn’t until Yordan Alvarez bounced a single into left field to score automatic runner Mauricio Dubón from third base for the winning run in the 10th inning, taking the Astros to a walk-off 3-2 victory over the Mariners, that Houston could appreciate his dominance over Seattle.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker. “It’s a quality team. They’re in a bit of pain today, but every time you beat someone in your division, that’s a two-game win. That was huge today and a big difference between 10 and 12 [games up]. We’re glad we won that game today and we’ve had some good moves from some guys.”
The Astros went 12-7 against the Mariners in 2022, winning six of the seven meetings between the teams over a 10-day period. In fact, Seattle has gone 18-6 since July 2, with all six defeats against Houston. That allowed the Astros (67-36) to maintain a 12-game lead over the AL West over the Mariners (55-48) heading into the final two months of the regular season.
The Astros blew Saturday’s game in the ninth inning by letting the Mariners score twice, meaning Houston inflicted only its second loss in 59 games this season in which it led after eight innings. So when Jesse Winker hit a two-run homerun in the eighth inning on Sunday off Ryne Stanek to tie the game, the Astros had to hold back.
“It was important, especially after last night’s game, because we all thought we had won it,” said Odorizzi, who gave up two hits in seven scoreless innings. “It’s good for everyone to bounce back at short notice, a day race. We did what we had to do to win today. That really showed the resilience of his team. We had to scramble around. Sometimes it’s good for us to win games like that. … It’s nice to win these exciting games, especially against a team that made us sort of a back door yesterday.”
After Héctor Neris threw a 1-2-3 10th inning and struckout a pair of batters to strand the Mariners automatic runner on second base, the Astros went to work in the bottom of the inning. With runners on first and second base and no outs, Yuli Gurriel’s double striker to right field brought Dubón to third base.
Instead of walking Alvarez to load the bases, the Mariners had Brennan Bernardino, who was making his Major League-debut, throw to the slugger. It didn’t end well. Alvarez, hitless in his previous four at bats, shot a helicopter to the left to beat the shift for Houston’s sixth walk-off win of the season.
Alvarez was asked if he thought the Mariners would intentionally run him to load the bases.
“On the contrary, I thought they were going to pitch around Yuli, and I told myself the situation was going to affect me,” Alvarez said. “I was just focused and said, ‘I’d be the one.'”
Perhaps the biggest development on Sunday was Odorizzi, whose name has surfaced in trade rumours. The Astros would like to add some offense — perhaps an outfielder or first baseman — and a reserve catcher, along with throwing reliefs ahead of Tuesday’s CT Trade Deadline at 5 p.m. To achieve that, they may have to move one of their starting pitchers, which is a strong position.
Odorizzi, who left his previous start with a blister on a finger on his pitching hand, is 4-1 with a 2.82 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP in his last nine starts and will play a key role in Houston’s rotation going forward, if he didn’t trade.
“I thought Odorizzi threw the ball really well,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “It’s about as good as we’ve ever seen him with command at the top of the strike zone and a good ride on the fastball. We didn’t do much against him all day.”