Although they moved past the offensive slump that threatened to derail their playoff bid, the Seattle Mariners could have a difficult time building on their series-opening outburst.
As Houston's Dallas Keuchel looks to add to his solid stretch, the visiting Mariners hope to move back into a playoff spot Saturday night when Chris Young tries for another impressive outing against the Astros.After totaling 29 runs during a five-game winning streak, Seattle (83-70) held a 1 1/2-game advantage in the race for the second wild-card spot on Sept. 6 before dropping seven of 10.The Mariners scored fewer than three runs in seven of those contests, falling two games behind a playoff spot before getting one back with Thursday's 3-1 road win over the Los Angeles Angels.Seattle moved within a half-game of a wild-card spot Friday, putting up a seven-run fourth inning in a 10-5 victory over the Astros (67-87).Dustin Ackley had his second career two-homer game, while Kyle Seager went 2 for 5 with a three-run home run. Mike Zunino, hitting .114 in his prior 27 contests, went 2 for 5 with a three-run shot.Robinson Cano added three hits -- his most since matching a season high with four on July 18."Sometimes you come to a park and it's just one of those places where you get a good feeling about it and that's pretty much the way it was," Ackley said.The Mariners, however, face a tough challenge as the series continues.Keuchel (11-9, 3.00 ERA), who needs eight innings to reach 200 for the first time in his career, has posted a 2.51 ERA over his last 10 starts and the Astros have won five of six with him on the mound.The left-hander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Sunday before giving up one run and three hits over seven-plus in a 6-1 road win over the West champion Angels."He's a competitor," interim manager Tom Lawless told MLB's official website. "He's not giving in. His sinker is so good. Behind in the count, he can still throw the sinker."Keuchel, who has won both his starts in Seattle in 2014, didn't allow an earned run on four hits in a complete-game 4-1 win in the most recent meeting May 25. He's gone the distance an AL-best five times this season.Keuchel gave up four runs over six innings against the Mariners in a 9-8 victory at Houston on May 3, though Seager (4 for 16), Cano (1 for 9) and Ackley (0 for 7) have scuffled against him this season.Young (12-8, 3.33) pitched well for the second straight start Sunday, allowing two runs and four hits over six-plus innings in a 4-0 home loss to Oakland. He's gone seven in each of his outings against the Astros this season, going 1-0 with a 3.21 ERA and holding them to a .128 average.The right-hander will try to send Houston to its fifth straight home loss -- its longest skid since a six-game slide in April.Young didn't get a decision despite giving up three runs over seven innings in a 5-3 home win over the Astros on April 23 before surrendering two runs and two hits with eight strikeouts over seven in a 5-2 victory at Houston on July 2.Jose Altuve, who is hitless in his seven at-bats against Young, set a franchise record with his 24th three-hit game Friday to raise his MLB-best average to .343.
Jose Altuve has hit .354 this season in at-bats to end on a pitch in the upper third of the zone or higher, fourth best among qualified hitters. Chris Young has thrown a MLB-high 45.1 percent of his pitches in that zone.