HOUSTON -- Julio Rodríguez went 4-for-6 with four singles and a stolen base -- and it was his worst game of the past four days.
Rodríguez's historic, hotter-than-hot stretch continued Saturday night in the Mariners' 10-3 win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park, as he broke the AL/NL record for the most hits in a four-game span with 17.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” manager Scott Servais said. “Nobody in the history of Major League Baseball has seen anything like it. But what can you say? Julio is just smoking hot right now.”
Rodríguez's 17-for-22 streak surpassed the 16 hits by Milt Stock of the Brooklyn Robins in 1925. The center fielder also homered twice in those 22 at-bats, including a huge shot in his 5-for-5 performance on Thursday. Oh, and he stole five bases during that stretch, which, safe to say, Stock did not.
Not only did the victory push Seattle within 1 1/2 games of its second-place American League West rivals, it also gave the club the tiebreaker over Houston, with a 7-2 head-to-head record and four games remaining between the teams.
The last time the Mariners won the season series vs. the Astros was 2018. But Seattle has put the “House of Horrors” memories aside. Here are three reasons for the club’s success vs. its division rivals this season:
J-Rod just can’t be stopped
On the same night that Jose Altuve reached 2,000 career hits, Rodríguez continued to set and break records. His recent mechanical adjustment -- a wider stance and stronger base to start -- have unlocked him into the hottest player in baseball. Here’s what he has done in his past four games:
Wednesday: 4-for-6, double, 2 RBIs, two stolen bases
Thursday: 5-for-5, home run, double, 5 RBIs
Friday: 4-for-5, home run, RBI, two stolen bases
Saturday: 4-for-6, stolen base
It’s no coincidence that Rodríguez’s arrival has come with improved success vs. the Astros -- even beyond his contributions at the plate. He was the first player to intervene when Houston starter Framber Valdez and José Caballero exchanged words after the left-hander hit the second baseman with a pitch, causing a benches-clearing scrum that Rodríguez moved Valdez away from.
“I feel like this is my family here,” Rodríguez said. “I’m not going to let anybody get in between that. I know what it feels like to get hit. I remember in 2019, [while in the Minor Leagues], I was out for two months. … That’s one of the things you can’t take lightly.
“I feel like everybody feels the same way, that this is a family and you protect your family. And that’s what we’re going to do. It doesn’t matter who it is.”
Starting to take control
Gilbert collected his 14th quality start, and he added yet another for the Mariners against the Astros this season. In nine games vs. Houston, Seattle starting pitching has notched eight quality starts -- going 6-0 with a 1.86 ERA.
In the past four years while losing the season series, Mariners’ starters have fared much worse:
2019: 1-7, 6.23 ERA
2020: 2-5, 5.87 ERA
2021: 1-8, 5.97 ERA
2022: 6-10, 4.15 ERA
In Friday night’s 2-0 win, Bryce Miller breezed through 6 1/3 innings by relying on his sinker to allow just two hits.
Gilbert wasn’t able to limit the traffic as effectively. But the right-hander worked around eight hits and one walk for two runs, both allowed on solo homers to the Crawford Boxes.
“It’s always tough to play here. Everybody knows that, especially a couple of years ago when I came up,” Gilbert said. “Last year, we made some momentum, gained some ground when we came here. And then doing it again this year says a lot.”
‘All hands on deck’
Servais had the simplest explanation for why the Mariners have been able to take on the Astros this year.
“Our team’s gotten better,” the manager said.
It was certainly true Saturday up and down the lineup, as every Seattle position player notched a hit. Moore continued to hit left-handed pitching and added to his own hot stretch in August with his two homers.
Caballero moved up to a .421 OBP in August with a single, a walk and a hit-by-pitch as he also continued his own best month of the season.
And Cade Marlowe rewarded his manager’s vote of confidence as the lefty hitter tripled against a left-hander in Valdez. The rookie left fielder added a pair of outfield assists -- doubling up Altuve in the first and throwing him out trying to stretch a single into a double on his 2,000th hit. Not to mention Marlowe’s two shoelace snags (both 50 percent catch probability) to rob two hits.
“Especially at this point in the year, when it all matters, it’s all hands on deck,” Gilbert said.