With the Houston Astros eyeing an American League West pennant, the best record in the AL and potentially their second World Series crown in three seasons, optimal health will undergird those goals.
When the Astros open a four-game series against the visiting Seattle Mariners on Thursday, they will do so without one of their lineup mainstays while remaining hopeful that he will return sometime soon.
All-Star outfielder George Springer was carted off the field Tuesday in Milwaukee after crashing into the center field wall, leading the Astros to hold their collective breath. Springer has again produced exceptional numbers for Houston, slashing .297/.389/.573 with 30 home runs and 78 RBIs despite missing 35 games, most notably to a hamstring strain.
"He's doing well given all the circumstances of running into a wall," Astros manager AJ Hinch said of Springer, whose 5.4 bWAR ranks third on the club and second only to infielder Alex Bregman among position players. "Scary for all of us, and it looks like he'll be day-to-day. We'll do (all of the testing). He'll run the gauntlet and make sure that he's OK. He's in pretty good spirits."
"Those are always really scary. Your mind starts racing as to what it could be, but then you just have to wait for the medical evaluation."
Left-hander Wade Miley (13-4, 3.06 ERA) will open the series for the Astros on Thursday. He will carry a winning streak of seven decisions into the start, posting a 2.78 ERA over a span of 13 starts dating to June 22. Opponents are slashing just .224/.301/.358 during that stretch, with Miley allowing three earned runs or fewer in 12 straight starts.
Miley is 3-1 with a 3.40 ERA over seven career starts against the Mariners. He is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA over four starts against Seattle this season, recording his lone decision in his previous start against the Mariners, when he allowed two runs on three hits and five walks with six strikeouts over six innings in a 10-2 home victory on Aug. 2.
Left-hander Marco Gonzales (14-11, 4.30) will start the series opener for the Mariners. He is 4-4 with a 4.42 ERA in the second half but has improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 2.56 prior to the break to 3.83 over his nine starts since.
Gonzales is 0-4 with a 7.50 ERA over six career appearances (five starts) against the Astros, including an 0-2 record and 5.28 ERA over three starts this season. In his previous appearance against Houston, Gonzalez allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks with two strikeouts over five innings in a 9-0 loss on Aug. 3.
For the Mariners, the final 22 games of the regular season will serve as a period of development for the numerous youngsters on their roster. Some of the pending lessons will prove challenging, like delivering with runners in scoring position. In dropping the finale of a two-game set against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, Seattle stranded 11 baserunners and finished 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
"As we continue to let our guys grow, they'll get better at it going forward," Mariners manager Scott Servais said to MLB.com. "They will."
--Field Level Media