Seattle Mariners fans are ready to party like it’s 2001.
The Mariners will host a playoff game for the first time since their record-tying, 116-win season when they meet the Houston Astros in Game 3 of an American League Division Series on Saturday afternoon.
Being in an 0-2 hole in the best-of-five series isn’t expected to dampen their enthusiasm.
“It’s going to be a lot of excitement out there,” rookie outfielder Julio Rodriguez said in a news conference Friday after the Mariners worked out. “I cannot wait to step on the field with them in the first postseason game in a long time here. I’m definitely excited for that and I know they’re going to enjoy it.”
The Astros rallied for an 8-7 victory in the series opener Tuesday on Yordan Alvarez’s three-run homer off reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Alvarez went deep again Thursday, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the sixth inning off Mariners ace Luis Castillo, to lead the Astros to a 4-2 win.
“Certainly things didn’t go our way in Houston, but we also know what the environment’s going to be like here and we’re really stoked about that and looking forward to it,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We got pieces to do it, there’s no question about it. … The factor that I don’t think is getting talked about enough, I think it’s going to show up (Saturday) in the first inning, is when there’s 45,000 Mariner fans in the stands pumped and ready to go and all behind us.
“I’ve talked about it, when we clinched or ended the drought, how valuable our fan base has been to this team. This team really — somehow we get wired, we get going when it gets loud here. And I really ask everybody to bring it … because we need it.”
The Mariners will also need another big performance from right-hander George Kirby (0-0, 0.00 ERA postseason; 8-5, 3.39 ERA regular season), who became the first rookie in major league history to record a postseason save in his first career relief appearance when he closed out the wild-card round in Toronto.
Kirby faced the Astros once this season, July 31 in Houston. On a strict 75-pitch limit, he allowed two runs on four hits in four innings with seven strikeouts and didn’t get a decision in an 3-2 extra-innings defeat.
The Astros are scheduled to start right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (2022 postseason debut; 4-2, 2.27 regular season), who made just eight appearances this season — none against the M’s — after missing the first four months with a forearm strain. McCullers is 10-3 with a 2.80 ERA in 18 career starts against Seattle.
This will be McCullers’ 17th playoff appearance since 2015.
“There’s something to be said about a guy that’s been there before,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “So we just hope that Lance is sharp and Lance is Lance.”
This will also be the eighth time McCullers has pitched in a game in which the Astros have a chance to close out a series.
“I think these are the moments you want to be in, as a team, as an individual. We put a lot of hard work,” McCullers said. “I think pitching in big games … it’s an honor, it’s a privilege, it’s something that you grow up as a little kid dreaming to do. So I got no doubt it will be rocking (Saturday). But I’m excited to feel the energy and go out there and give it my all.”
–Field Level Media