Having survived an injury-marred first half of the season, the Houston Astros are on the verge of reclaiming a full complement of position players, and the results of late have been as expected.
With their 12-5 road victory over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday in the rubber match of that three-game series, the Astros posted double-digit runs for the third time in six games. Houston will open a three-game home series against the Seattle Mariners on Friday having gone 7-1-2 in the series since dropping three of four at home to the Mariners July 6-9.
The Astros have since welcomed back Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez. Michael Brantley, who hasn't played with the Astros this season after offseason shoulder surgery, began a rehab assignment this week.
Near-optimal health appears to be paying dividends for Houston.
"A hundred percent," Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said. "I think we've been playing great baseball recently. The offense has been outstanding and we've got to keep it rolling."
Rookie right-hander J.P. France (9-3, 2.74 ERA) will start the series opener for Houston on Friday. He is unbeaten over his last eight appearances and seven starts, going 7-0 with a 1.85 ERA. Tied for the staff lead in wins, France has recorded a quality start in 10 of his last 11 starts and has logged at least seven innings in six of those starts, including four in succession. He limited the Los Angeles Angels to two runs on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts in an 11-3 victory on Saturday.
France has faced the Mariners once this season, twirling five shutout innings while allowing three hits and one walk with five strikeouts in his major league debut on May 6. He did not factor into the decision of the Astros' 7-5 road loss.
Rookie right-hander Bryce Miller (7-4, 4.04) has the starting assignment for Seattle. He did not factor into the decision in his last start after limiting the Baltimore Orioles to two runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks with two strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings in the Mariners' 5-3 loss last Sunday.
Miller worked six shutout innings in his only career appearance against the Astros, allowing two hits and one walk with five strikeouts in a 3-1 home win on May 7.
The Mariners, 5-2 with a plus-16 run differential against Houston this season, continued their torrid play with a 6-4 road victory over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday. Seattle has won six consecutive road series and seven of eight series overall and closed to within 3 1/2 games of the Astros in pursuit of one of two American League wild-card bids.
Mariners center fielder Julio Rodriguez has been hot since moving into the leadoff spot. During that seven-game span, Rodriguez is batting .417 with 16 RBIs, including a 5-for-5 effort in the series finale with the Royals that included five RBIs and a go-ahead, three-run home run in the eighth inning. Rodriguez went 12-for-21 with 11 RBIs in the four-game series.
Right-hander Matt Brash saved the final two games of the series and joined Andres Munoz and Tayler Saucedo as Seattle relievers to record saves since the Mariners traded closer Paul Sewald to the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 31.
"We've used Matt a lot lately. You probably won't see him for the next couple of days," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "And that's what we're going to have to do here, kind of cycle through different guys. We will not have a set closer. It's what pocket we're in, who's the freshest. That guy will get the opportunity."
—Field Level Media