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May 3, 2024 7:35 am

Mariners ride hot streak into opener of series with Astros

George Kirby

A 5-2 home loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday prevented Seattle from completing a three-game series sweep of a top contender in the National League, but it did not stem the tide of the Mariners’ recent run of excellence.

The Mariners, who begin a seven-game road trip on Friday against the Houston Astros, have won five consecutive series.

Seattle is 7-3 over the past 10 games, and before Emerson Hancock scuffled for 3 2/3 innings in the series finale against Atlanta, the Mariners rotation set a club record with 18 consecutive starts allowing two or fewer earned runs.

Seattle leads the majors with 19 quality starts, paced by Logan Gilbert (five) and Bryce Miller and Luis Castillo (four each). A sweep of the Braves would have resulted in a 5-1 homestand. The Mariners had to settle for a bit less, but their stellar play of late cannot be discounted.

“For me a really good homestand. Had a chance to be a great homestand … but not to be,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “The goal is to win the series, and we did win the series. We’re playing really good baseball.”

George Kirby (3-2, 4.18 ERA) is scheduled to start the series opener for the Mariners on Friday.

The right-hander’s 9.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranks second among all qualified pitchers after Kirby recorded a season-high 12 strikeouts against one walk while twirling seven shutout innings in a win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday. That marked Kirby’s third scoreless outing on the season and second in succession.

Kirby is 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA over three career starts against the Astros. He won both of his starts against Houston last season, when he allowed a combined one run on 11 hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over 12 2/3 innings.

Right-hander Ronel Blanco (3-0, 1.65) has the starting assignment for the Astros on Friday.

After opening the season with back-to-back scoreless outings, including a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 1, Blanco has allowed two runs in each of his past three starts, going 1-0 with a 3.06 ERA in that span.

On Saturday, Blanco struck out a season-high eight batters in a 12-4 win over the Colorado Rockies. He allowed two runs on five hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings.

Blanco is 0-1 with a 6.48 ERA over three career appearances (one start) against the Mariners. He worked six innings against Seattle on July 6, 2023, yielding three runs on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts in a 5-1 loss.

With their 8-2 victory over the Cleveland Guardians on Thursday in the rubber match of a three-game set, the Astros earned their second consecutive series win after three straight series defeats.

As starting pitchers Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy near a return to the rotation, the Astros hope to blend improving health with superior play into the momentum needed to reverse their prior struggles.

“That’s what it’s all about. It’s about winning series,” Astros manager Joe Espada said. “That’s the message that we’re carrying right now through our clubhouse. Keep winning series, one game at a time, one pitch at a time. We have a lot of baseball left, and that’s what I want our identity to be right now: Let’s just win series. We do that and we’ll look back and this (slow start) will be in the rear window.”

–Field Level Media

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