The decision scientists made Marwin Gonzalez the cleanup hitter Tuesday night and the switch-hitting utility man's two-run homer capped a four-run third inning which led to a 7-0 shutout of Seattle, ending the Mariners' improbable playoff run. Scott Servais' club, with their patchwork pitching and upside-down run differential, gave the Astros a heck of a fight at times this season. Give the M's a moment of silence before they're buried at sea.
James: ERA drops to 2.81
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
Marwin was a .660 OPS hitter the first half of the season but he has been quietly producing the second half as the next best hitter behind Alex Bregman. Marwin is batting at an .865 OPS since the All-Star Break, including eight homers in August and now one more this month.
The offense gave Josh James plenty of breathing space to pick up his first big league win. The big righthander with the 99-mph heater allowed four hits and two walks over 5-1/3rd innings of scoreless baseball while fanning seven. Tony Sipp and Will Harris got him out of a sixth-inning jam to preserve the shutout. Collin McHugh and Chris Devenski finished out the combined six-hitter.
Brian McCann was hit by a Mike Leake pitch to open the third. Tiny Tony Kemp cracked a double to right to get McCann to third. Next George Springer grounded an RBI base hit to left for the game's first run. Kemp scored behind him on Jose Altuve's infield chopper.
After Bregman flied out, Gonzalez pounced on a 1-0 pitch to left center which struck above the scrap metal sign in left (Scrap metal? Are the Astros that desperate for cash?). Marwin stopped at second but instant replay ruled the fly hit above the yellow line for his 16th homer of the season.
McCann added an RBI single in the seventh and Tyler White doubled home Altuve in the eighth. Kyle Tucker grounded out to plate Gonzalez for the final run before 35,715 happy fans.
Wednesday night's series finale will come at 7:10 pm Central. Dallas Keuchel (11-10) is scheduled for Houston as they reshuffle their rotation to prepare for the postseason. The Mariners have yet to declare a starter and could very well trot out a surprise now that they've been eliminated.
On Thursday, the Astros have an off day while the AAA Round Rock Express are expected to announce they are rejoining the Astros' farm system for 2019 and beyond. They had been the Rangers' top farm team from 2011-2018.
- Bob Hulsey