In each of the previous two seasons, the Seattle Mariners appeared to make headway in their head-to-head matchups against the Houston Astros, with the 2022 American League Division Series between the two clubs ending in a sweep that in no way reflected the competitive nature of the three-game set.
This season, the Mariners have dominated the Astros, and with their 10-3 victory over Houston on Saturday, clinched the season series with four games remaining. After going 15-23 against the Astros in 2021-22, the Mariners have outscored Houston 46-21 in nine games this season, winning seven, and will look for another win on Sunday in Houston.
"Our team has gotten better and it continues to get better," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "I know people get tired of me saying that it doesn't matter, get better. But that's what we've done. It's a credit to our players and our staff, and I think the Astros know we are better, too."
The Astros' frustrations boiled over on Saturday night when Houston starter Framber Valdez plunked Seattle's Jose Caballero with the first pitch he saw after Dylan Moore hit a two-run homer that extended his team's lead to 6-2. Both dugouts and bullpens cleared after Caballero protested.
It will mark the third career start for Hancock, who was called up from Double-A Arkansas to make his big-league debut on Aug. 9. Hancock did not factor into the decision in his most recent outing after allowing five runs on nine hits with one strikeout over five innings in a 10-8 road victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday.
Another rookie right-hander, Hunter Brown (9-8, 4.16), has the starting assignment for the Astros on Sunday as Houston attempts to avert the three-game series sweep.
Brown worked out of the bullpen for the first time this season in his most recent appearance, working two scoreless innings while allowing one hit and one walk with one strikeout in earning the victory against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday. He had worked six innings in each of his previous four starts, going 2-1 with a 4.13 ERA in that span.
Brown is 0-1 with a 15.00 ERA in his career against the Mariners. In his lone start against them on July 7, Brown allowed five runs on eight hits and three walks with eight strikeouts over three innings in a 10-1 home loss.
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve finished 3-for-5 on Saturday, and his single to left field in the fifth inning marked the 2,000th hit of his career.
Altuve joined Hall of Fame members Craig Biggio (3,060 hits) and Jeff Bagwell (2,314) in the franchise's 2,000-hit club and did so in 1,631 games — faster than both Biggio and Bagwell. Altuve is one of seven active players with 2,000 hits and joins Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto as the only players to accomplish the feat playing for one club.
"Really happy, obviously," Altuve said. "I know we lost (Saturday) and not in a good way but really happy. Thanks for all my teammates, my family and God. Two thousand is a huge accomplishment for me.
"It's really important. I think about it's not easy to get a hit nowadays in the big leagues, especially against the Mariners. They have good pitching. But very thankful and happy."
—Field Level Media