The Seattle Mariners will travel to Minute Maid Park on Saturday evening for the second game of their pivotal weekend series versus the AL West-leading Houston Astros.
The Mariners have slipped out of contention in the American League postseason race and enter play on Friday night trailing the division-rival Oakland Athletics by 2.5-games in the AL Wild Card race.
LeBlanc looks to get over the hump vs. Astros
Veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc is expected to toe the rubber for the Mariners In Houston on Saturday. The 34-year-old enters the weekend with a 6-2 overall record to go along with a 3.81 ERA in 23 appearances (18 starts) this season and comes into Saturday’s start having posted quality outings in three of his last four starts. LeBlanc is fresh off of limiting the Texas Rangers to just one run in 6 ⅓ innings of two-hit ball, but was rendered with a no-decision for his efforts in a 4-3 Mariners win. His last outing represented the first time in five starts that the Mariners provided more than three runs of support for the veteran lefty.
While LeBlanc has been excellent on the mound for the Mariners this season, he has not been able to figure out how to get past the division-rival Astros. Houston has gotten the better of LeBlanc in each of his outings this season. The Mariners lefty is 0-1 with a 10.22 ERA in four appearances (two starts) versus the Astros this year. He has made only one other start against Houston over the past three seasons and that didn’t end well either. He surrendered five runs (four earned) in 3 ⅓ innings of work in 2016. According to Baseball Savant, the current Astros roster is batting a healthy .433 with seven home runs in 66 plate appearances versus LeBlanc heading into Saturday’s matchup.
Morton rounding into late-season form
The Astros will counter with breaking ball expert Charlie Morton, who has been rounding into form since the All-Star Break. He has allowed just four runs in three starts since the Midsummer Classic, while posting a 1.89 ERA and limiting opposing hitters to a .200 batting average. Three of the four runs that he has surrendered during that span have been home runs. Morton is fresh off of tossing seven innings of one-run ball on the road versus the San Francisco Giants. He limited them to just three hits, while striking out eight batters and walking three on the night to win his second straight decision. Morton is 12-2 with a 2.81 ERA in 22 starts this year and he has proved that last year’s career-high strikeout rate was no fluke. Last season, Morton struck out a career-high 10.00 batters per nine innings and he’s managed to eclipse that number at age 34 with a 11.44 strikeout rate in 2018.
Morton has already made two starts versus the Mariners this year, going 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA. The Astros’ veteran has surrendered just three earned runs in 13 innings of work versus Seattle this season, while striking out 13 batters and limiting the Mariners to a .196 batting average. He went 1-2 with a 3.80 ERA in four starts versus Seattle in 2017. According to Baseball Savant, current Mariners hitters are batting just .245 in 154 plate appearances versus Morton heading into this game