The late-inning heroics provided by the battery of Hector Neris and Martin Maldonado proved welcome for the Houston Astros, who squeezed out a 3-2 home victory Saturday over the Seattle Mariners, setting the table for the Astros to earn a split of the four-game series on Sunday

Neris escaped a bases-loaded, no-out pickle in the top of the eighth inning before Maldonado snapped an 0-for-21 slump with a solo home run in the bottom of the frame that yielded the winning margin. Despite their injury-ravaged first half, the Astros closed to within two games of the division-leading Texas Rangers in the American League West

“We needed it very badly,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We were 1-4 (against the Mariners) going into (Saturday), and the fact that we wanted to pick up a game or two this weekend. And the fact that Texas lost.

Right-hander Brandon Bielak (4-4, 3.81 ERA) has the starting assignment for Houston on Sunday. He posted the longest scoreless appearance of his career against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday when he tossed a career-high seven innings while allowing two hits and four walks with four strikeouts in a 4-1 victory.

Bielak is 1-1 with one save in eight career appearances (one start) against the Mariners. In his first start of this season, Bielak allowed three runs (two earned) on 10 hits and two walks over 4 2/3 innings while suffering a 3-1 road loss to the Mariners on May 7

Right-hander Logan Gilbert (6-5, 3.82) is scheduled to start the series finale for Seattle. He recorded his first career complete game in his most recent outing, allowing five hits and recording seven strikeouts while twirling a 6-0 shutout at the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday.

It marked the sixth start this season with at least seven strikeouts for Gilbert, who has alternated wins and losses over his last seven decisions with a 4-3 record and 3.83 ERA during that span.

Gilbert is 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA over seven career starts against the Astros. In his previous outing against Houston, he surrendered two runs on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts over six innings while not factoring into the decision of a 4-2 road loss on July 28, 2022

By facing Astros left-hander Framber Valdez on Saturday, the Mariners capped a stretch of games against four of the top five starters in the majors in groundball rate: Logan Webb and Alex Cobb of the San Francisco Giants, who rank first and third, plus Houston’s Hunter Brown and Valdez, who are fifth and fourth, respectively

While Seattle scored only two runs off Valdez across six innings, they did push his pitch count to 105 pitches and avoided hitting into one double play, a Valdez calling card. Those results spoke to a sound approach at the plate.

“We’ve done better against some than others,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I think any time you’ve got a guy with a good sinker or breaking ball who can get the ball hit on the ground a lot, you’ve really got to stay inside the ball. You have to hit the ball the other way. Those guys, they create those ground balls by getting you to pull the ball

“Your bat path is so important when you’re facing those guys. If you smother or you get out and around (the ball), it’s a groundball fest and it doesn’t end well for us.”

–Field Level Media


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