Astros close in on best AL record with sweep of Mariners

Pressly sets club record for consecutive batters retired by a reliever to cap win

July 25th, 2022

SEATTLE -- The up-and-coming Mariners, who came out of the All-Star break riding the momentum of a 14-game winning streak and looking to make a statement against the American League West leaders, turned out to be nothing more than a road bump for the relentless Astros. 

The Astros have padded their division lead by four games in four days coming out of the break by sweeping a doubleheader from the Yankees on Thursday in Houston before barging into T-Mobile Park and ruining Seattle’s party. Houston swept the series, capped by Sunday’s 8-5 win that sunk the Mariners to 13 games back of the first-place Astros.

“[The Mariners] cut the lead by winning 14 in a row before the [All-Star] break and maybe the break might have hurt them, and it certainly helped us to regroup and get our stuff together,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We’ve just got to keep playing.”

By improving to an AL-best 27-8 since June 14, including 19-5 since June 28, the Astros have tied the 2017 championship club for their best record through 96 games (64-32) and are on pace to win a club-record 108 games. They remain 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees for the best record in the AL and own the tiebreaker.

“These three wins are huge for us,” said Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who hit a leadoff homer. “They were playing really good. They’re still playing good, but [these were] a really good three games against them. It’s always good to win games against teams in your division, and it creates some momentum for us to keep winning games. We think one game at a time, but it was good to win these last five games.”

The Astros haven’t trailed at any point in their five wins coming out of the All-Star break, leading the opponent for 42 of 45 innings played. Altuve started two of the three wins over Seattle with leadoff homers, giving him six leadoff homers on the road this year to quiet the crowd. 

"We got beat. They executed. They made pitches. They made plays. They got timely hits. And that's why they swept the series,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.

Altuve clubbed the first pitch of the game from Mariners starter Robbie Ray, which sailed 409 feet over the left-field wall. Rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña followed with a homer to left for a quick 2-0 lead. The Astros bashed Ray -- the 2021 AL Cy Young winner -- for six runs and 10 hits in three innings.

“Obviously, homers are good for every hitter in every situation,” Altuve said. “I feel like starting the game, you set the tone a little bit for the boys, but I think Jeremy’s homer was even better because that really set the tone for the other hitters, and starting the game, 2-0, is really good for us.”

The Astros are where they are this year because of pitching, and they got another solid effort Sunday from All-Star left-hander Framber Valdez (9-4). He posted his 16th consecutive quality start by holding Seattle to three runs and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings.

Astros closer Ryan Pressly returned from the paternity list and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 20th save, setting a club record with 28 consecutive batters retired as a reliever and now sits at 30. He has 10 consecutive perfect one-inning outings under his belt.

“We were trying to get [Valdez] to the seventh and trying to give Pressly a day to get acclimated, but we had to call him into service today, and he was good,” Baker said. “He set the record for [30] consecutive batters [retired]. I told him congratulations after the game, but he said, ‘For what?’ I wasn't going to tell him if he didn’t know.”

Pressly is well aware of his record, but he said “you’re not really thinking about any of that when you’re out there. You’re just trying to get three outs and do it any way you can.”

With the Trade Deadline approaching, the Astros will be in a position to add some players to bolster their chances for October. That’s bad news for the rest of the AL based on the juggernaut that roared through Seattle this weekend. 

“It just feels good to get through this stretch, but now we can’t let down, because we’re going to Oakland,” Baker said.