If the Seattle Mariners wish to bounce back from their latest defeat, they likely need to continue their road success against Houston's Collin McHugh.
The playoff-chasing Mariners will try to prevent the Astros right-hander from winning his fifth straight start in Sunday's series finale.With a 10-1 defeat Saturday, Seattle (83-71) couldn't take advantage of losses by Oakland and Kansas City earlier in the day. The Mariners remain one-half game behind the Royals for the AL's second wild-card spot, and one back of the Athletics."You are at this point of the year, you are in single-digit games left, and we obviously know where we stand," Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager said. "Every game is magnified right now."Chris Young allowed seven runs and four of the Astros' season high-tying five homers over three innings as the Mariners' six-game winning streak in Houston ended.Seattle scored 55 runs during the streak but managed only a third-inning RBI single from Robinson Cano on Saturday.Cano is batting .419 with 12 RBIs in his last seven games at Minute Maid Park, but is 2 for 12 with four strikeouts versus McHugh (10-9, 2.66 ERA).Though McHugh is 2-0 with an 0.61 ERA at Seattle, he's 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA at home against the Mariners with all four outings coming this season.McHugh, however, is 6-0 with a 1.50 ERA in nine outings that followed a seven-start stretch in which he went 0-6 with a 4.66 ERA. He allowed an unearned run and struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings of a 3-1 home win over Cleveland on Monday.That came after McHugh yielded a homer to Logan Morrison and one other hit through eight innings of a 2-1 victory at Seattle on Sept. 9."He's been tough on a lot of people lately," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told MLB's official website.Hisashi Iwakuma (14-8, 3.42), meanwhile, is 2-2 with a 9.28 ERA in five outings following a 7-2 mark and 1.63 ERA over his previous 10. The right-hander has yielded 11 runs in 7 2/3 innings in the last two, including a season-high seven over 3 1/3 innings of an 8-1 road loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Monday.Iwakuma, though, believes he's pinpointed his current problem."My balance in general, upper body and lower body are not linking right now," he said. "I need to make an adjustment. All is never perfect, but I'm usually able to make the adjustment."I'm not able to execute pitches when I need to, and that's what I need to do from here on."Iwakuma went 2-1 with a 1.38 ERA in four starts against the Astros in 2013, but is 2-2 with a 4.88 ERA this year. He's allowed four runs in three of those starts, including Sept. 10 over 4 1/3 innings of a 5-2 defeat.In his last outing at Minute Maid Park, Iwakuma gave up a run and struck out seven in six innings of a 13-2 victory July 1, improving to 3-1 with a 2.56 ERA in five starts there.Jose Altuve is 9 for 22 versus Iwakuma and batting .465 with five RBIs in his last 10 games. With two hits Saturday, the Astros star raised his major league-leading batting average to .344.Teammate Chris Carter, who hit his 37th homer Saturday, is 3 for 20 with a home run and eight strikeouts against Iwakuma.
Collin McHugh has thrown a slider 30.8 percent of the time, which would be fifth among qualified starters this year. The Mariners have a .194 batting average in at bats that end in a slider, which is tied for the third lowest batting average in baseball this year.