Through the first two dozen games of this season, the Seattle Mariners had come to rely on a bullpen featuring five relievers with scoreless streaks of at least four innings entering Wednesday.
For one of those relievers, right-hander Rafael Montero, that streak came to an end as the Houston Astros rallied for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning in their 7-5 victory that set the table for a sweep of the four-game series Thursday. Had Montero preserved a 5-3 lead, righty Kendall Graveman and his 9 2/3-inning scoreless innings streak would have pitched the ninth.
“The bullpen has been very, very good,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “First time we stubbed our toe all season.”
Servais opted to give Mitch Haniger the night off Wednesday after speaking with the outfielder pregame and discovering that Haniger was “dragging” a bit physically. Haniger missed the 2020 season after undergoing lumbar microdiscectomy surgery in February 2020. Haniger was an All-Star in 2018 and finished that season 11th in American League MVP balloting.
“I think we do need to be very disciplined and understand where he’s at as he does make his comeback from a long time off,” Servais said. “I thought it best to give him the night off.”
Seattle left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (0-1, 5.70 ERA) will make his fifth start of the season and seventh of his career against the Astros Thursday. He recorded consecutive quality starts to open 2021 but allowed five earned runs over 4 2/3 innings against the Boston Red Sox on April 23 after surrendering five earned runs over seven innings at home against Houston on April 16.
Kikuchi is 0-2 with a 6.46 ERA against the Astros.
Right-hander Luis Garcia (0-2, 3.00) will start Thursday for Houston as the Astros cap their eight-game homestand. It will mark the fifth appearance and third start of the season for Garcia, who allowed one run on two hits in 1 2/3 innings and picked up the loss against the Los Angeles Angels on April 25. He also took the loss in his last start after allowing two runs on three hits and three walks with six strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings against the Colorado Rockies on April 20.
Garcia will make his first career appearance against the Mariners.
Astros manager Dusty Baker opted for Garcia over left-hander Kent Emanuel for the series finale, explaining that the lack of left-handed options in his bullpen combined with the Astros’ upcoming series against the Tampa Bay Rays were determining factors in his decision-making.
Emanuel worked 8 2/3 innings of relief in his major league debut against the Angels on April 24, allowing two runs on five hits with five strikeouts in the Astros’ 16-2 victory. Emanuel joins veteran Brooks Raley in the bullpen for the three-game weekend series against the Rays.
“We put our heads together and decided that Kent can have more of an impact in the series against Tampa Bay in possibly two out of the three or all three games because they have five or six left-handers on the bench and then they tend to platoon them,” Baker said. “We figured that with only one left-hander in the bullpen with Raley, if Kent starts then we can’t pitch him (Raley) every day or more than one time.”
–Field Level Media