HOUSTON -- Can the Astros ride the momentum following one of their biggest postseason wins in the past three years into Game 2 of the American League Division Series? Can the Mariners shake off a late-game collapse by their vaunted bullpen and regroup to keep themselves from being pushed to the brink of elimination?
There is no shortage of storylines ahead of Thursday’s Game 2 of the ALDS at Minute Maid Park, where two dominant pitchers -- lefty Framber Valdez of the Astros and right-hander Luis Castillo of the Mariners -- will get the starts. The Astros lead the series, 1-0, after Yordan Alvarez hit a three-run walk-off homer to stun Seattle on Tuesday.
Minute Maid Park remains a house of horrors for the Mariners, who are 7-31 in the ballpark since 2019. The Mariners appeared to have the Astros on the ropes in Game 1, taking a 7-3 lead through seven innings in a game started by Justin Verlander, before Houston rallied against Seattle’s relief corps.
Game 2 will be the Astros’ first look at Castillo in a Mariners uniform. He was traded to Seattle a couple of weeks after Houston swept the Mariners at T-Mobile Park in July, taking control of the AL West and serving as a reminder the Astros remain the team to beat in the AL.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game 2: LIVE on TBS
Game 3: Saturday, 3 p.m. CT/1 p.m. PT on TBS
Game 4 (if necessary): Sunday, 2 p.m. CT/12 p.m. PT on TBS
Game 5 (if necessary): Monday, 4 p.m. CT/2 p.m. PT on TBS
Who are the starting pitchers?
Mariners: Luis Castillo (7-6, 3.06 ERA in regular season) makes his second postseason start of 2022 and the third of his career. He threw 7 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series vs. Toronto, allowing six hits and striking out five. Castillo has made one career regular-season start vs. Houston, allowing two runs on two hits with seven strikeouts over seven innings.
Astros: Framber Valdez (17-6, 2.82 ERA) had mixed results to close out the regular season. He pitched five scoreless innings in his final outing on the last day of the season in a win over the Phillies, but prior to that, he'd allowed 10 earned runs over 10 2/3 innings, spanning two starts. The lefty owns a career 66.6% career ground-ball percentage, the highest in the Majors since the start of the 2018 season by almost 10 percentage points.
In two starts against the Mariners this year, Valdez went 1-0 with a 3.95 ERA, walking two and striking out five. In nine career outings (seven starts) vs. Seattle, Valdez is 5-0 with a 1.94 ERA.
What are the starting lineups?
Mariners: With Seattle facing its first lefty this postseason, manager Scott Servais moved the switch-hitting Cal Raleigh, who hits righties better, to No. 7. Mitch Haniger moved into the cleanup spot, and Dylan Moore got the start in left instead of Jarred Kelenic.
Astros: Manager Dusty Baker opted to not change too much after his team had 11 hits and scored eight runs in the Game 1 win. One spot where he did make a change is at designated hitter, where Trey Mancini went 0-for-4 on Tuesday and has continued to struggle in a Houston uniform. Aledmys Díaz is a good fastball hitter, and he gets the start at DH against Castillo. Jake Meyers also get his first start in center field. Here's the starting lineup for Game 2:
How will the bullpens line up after the starters?
Mariners: With a shorter series and three off-days since the Wild Card Series ended, Servais can be far more aggressive with his bullpen usage. And he’ll certainly need them to pick up the pieces after Tuesday’s loss, during which the relievers allowed five earned runs. Given that Seattle would like to avoid using George Kirby to keep him available for a Game 3 start on Saturday, he probably won’t be available.
Astros: Houston used four relievers in Game 1 after Verlander lasted only four innings, but the only one of the club's four primary back-end arms who worked was Rafael Montero, who pitched the ninth. Closer Ryan Pressly and setup men Ryne Stanek and Héctor Neris are fresh, and the Astros had starters José Urquidy and Luis Garcia in the bullpen for Game 1 as well. The only pitcher who is probably down is Bryan Abreu, who threw 33 pitches on Tuesday.
Any injuries of note?
Mariners: Other than the injuries sustained by outfielders Jesse Winker and Sam Haggerty during the final week of the regular season, the Mariners are healthy. The only postseason scare they've had was with Carlos Santana’s left hamstring, which cramped up during the AL Wild Card Series, but he’s been good to go.
Who is hot and who is not?
Mariners: Rodríguez finished 2-for-4 with a walk and scored three runs in Game 1, setting the tone at the top of the lineup. Raleigh, who went 4-for-8 during the Wild Card Series, added an RBI single in the first inning in the ALDS opener.
Astros: Alvarez finished 3-for-5 with a three-run homer and a two-run double in Game 1. … Gurriel went 3-for-4 with a homer. … Bregman slugged his 13th career playoff homer. … Mancini went hitless in four at-bats as the designated hitter and has continued to struggle in a Houston uniform.
Anything else I should know?
Mariners: Rodríguez became the first player in MLB history to record a double and triple and score three runs within the first five innings of a postseason game. He’s also the first player in Seattle postseason history to record a double and triple in the same game. … Logan Gilbert struck out five batters in Game 1, tied with Joel Pineiro for the second most in Seattle history for a pitcher making his postseason debut. Randy Johnson fanned 10 in 1995.
Astros: Bregman has recorded an RBI in five of his six career ALDS openers. He has hit five homers in Game 1 of the postseason, tying for second most in history. Gurriel’s solo homer in Game 1 was the seventh of his postseason career, breaking a tie with Lance Berkman for sixth most in Astros postseason history. …Terry Puhl will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 2. Puhl, who played for the Astros from 1977-90, was inducted into the Astros Hall of Fame in August.