Astros set 2nd-half tone with electric win vs. Mariners

Full-team effort by Houston halts Seattle’s win streak at 14

July 23rd, 2022

SEATTLE -- The biggest crowd of the season at T-Mobile Park, energized by the streaking Mariners’ longest winning streak in 21 years, didn’t have to wait long for a sobering reminder about which team still rules the American League West.

Jose Altuve clubbed the third pitch of Friday’s game from Seattle starter Marco Gonzales over the left-field wall for a leadoff homer, and Yordan Alvarez and Martín Maldonado added solo homers to send the Astros to a 5-2 win, snapping the Mariners’ 14-game winning streak.

“It sets the tone for the second half for us,” rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña said.

Astros starter José Urquidy held the Mariners to one run on four hits in six innings, and Houston’s bullpen survived a tenuous eighth-inning rally. The Astros moved 11 games ahead of the second-place Mariners in the AL West and improved to a season-high 30 games over .500 (62-32). 

Here are three key moments in the Astros’ win:

Altuve answers the crowd
Having hit the All-Star break on a 14-game winning streak, the Mariners were hoping to keep it going against the first-place Astros. With an amped-up crowd making noise at the start of the game, Altuve quieted them quickly with a leadoff homer -- his 18th home run of the season. 

“I think it set the tone a little bit,” Altuve said. “Obviously, they’re playing really good baseball, and just to be able to come today and put some good swings on the ball and win the game, it was really good for us.”

Alvarez led off the fourth with his 28th homer, and Maldonado homered in the fifth to help the Astros build a 5-1 lead. The Astros improved to 16-1 in games in which they hit at least three homers (the lone loss was a 7-4 setback against the Mariners on June 6).

Urquidy solves the Mariners
The Astros, who are using a six-man rotation, could have certainly chosen not to pitch Urquidy against the Mariners, considering he was 0-3 with a 10.38 ERA in his previous three starts against them in 2022. But Urquidy proved to be up to the challenge. 

The right-hander held the Mariners to one run and four hits in six innings, throwing 105 pitches to improve to 9-4 on the season. 

“I was very focused,” he said. “I studied a lot this year. I made a good plan. We talked a lot, me and Maldy, for today and the plan was good. I was attacking the zone and throwing everything with conviction and throwing pitch by pitch, hitter by hitter.”

Since giving up five earned runs and 12 hits in 4 2/3 innings in a loss at Seattle on May 28, Urquidy is 5-2 with a 3.23 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP in nine starts, eight of which have been quality starts. He’s thrown at least six innings in seven consecutive starts, though it didn’t look like he would do that early in Friday’s game. 

“His pitch count got kind of high, and he threw a quality start,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “I don’t know how many it is in a row for him, but against a team like this, that’s been his nemesis this year, that was big for Urquidy and for us.”

Peña shows off his hops
The Astros had to hold on for dear life in the eighth, when the Mariners pushed across a run on a bases-loaded walk, bringing Kyle Lewis up with one out. Facing reliever Ryne Stanek, Lewis hit a broken-bat liner to short that a leaping Peña snagged from the air to save at least one, possibly two runs. 

“So I thought he hit it a little harder,” Peña of the liner, which had a 77.2 mph exit velocity. “It was off the end of the bat, and the ball was knuckling in the air. I think I had a pretty good read on it, and I just got up and made the catch.”

Baker couldn’t tell from his vantage point if Peña had a chance to catch the ball. 

“I haven't seen Peña jump,” he said. “Now I’ve seen him jump. He said he had some more in the tank, but I don’t know how much more. That was big because they were rallying, the crowd was into it and they were trying to urge them on for [win] No. 15.” 

Stanek hadn’t seen Peña jump either, but he wasn’t surprised he made the play. 

“The kid’s a freak athlete, so it doesn’t surprise me he’s got some bunnies,” he said.