Hisashi Iwakuma (14-8, 3.42) vs Collin McHugh (10-9, 2.66)
Many, many things were frustrating about the last three years for Astros fans, but a unique frustration near the end of each season was that Houston was repeatedly given the chance to play spoiler (with their own playoff hopes typically dead and buried by May), but they repeatedly fell flat - worst of all the 15-game streak ending last season. The 2014 Astros have played nothing but playoff contenders so far in September, and they've now got a 10-8 record for the month, winning 4 out of the 6 series - certainly far more fun for Houston, and frustrating for opposing fans who likely penciled these in as "easy wins." Seattle is the latest victim, having lost 4 of 6 to the Astros this month, following today's 8-3 defeat. The win wraps up Houston's home schedule for 2014, as they finish 38-43 @ MMP - a 14-game improvement on 2013 and their best home mark since 42-39 in 2010. Houston goes on the road for their final 6 games, all against losing teams, at 69-87 overall.
On the Mound:
*Collin McHugh stayed on turn in the rotation today, feeling no ill effects from the forearm contusion that forced him from his last start, and one bad pitch to Michael Saunders in the 5th made this his worst start since July 27. That pitched turned into a 2-run HR, which brought McHugh's runs allowed total for the day up to 3, so "worst start" is really relative. He also walked a batter for the first time since August 23 (!), but Houston immediately answered Saunders' home run with three runs of their own, putting Doctor McHugh back in the lead and helping him to his 5th straight win in as many starts. He still turned in an official quality start with this line: 6 IP / 4 H / 3 R / 3 ER / 1 BB / 6 K.
*With Houston ahead 4-3, took over for the 7th, allowing a Logan Morrison single in between a pair of outs.
*Jose Veras struck out Mike Zunino for the final out of the 7th, then allowed Brad Miller to single leading off the 8th. But Jonathan Singleton - who had just entered the game as a defensive replacement for Chris Carter - turned a nifty unassisted double play on Austin Jackson's liner, then Veras got Dustin Ackley to line out, ending the 8th.
*Tony Sipp got the 9th with a 5-run lead, and there was very little drama: a one-out single by Kyle Seager in between a pair of strikeouts, then LoMo popped up to Jason Castro in foul ground for the final out.
At the Plate:
*The Astros were only a Chris Carter away from back-to-back games in which every starter had a hit, but Carter was 0x3 with 2 K, though he did at least contribute (?) an intentional walk to the cause.
*Alex Presley had the most active day on the basepaths, following up 2x4 last night with 3x5 today, including a 2-run double, a steal, and a run scored.
*Since going 0x9 September 8-9 while sitting on 198 hits, all that Jose Altuve has done is go 22x47 (.468), including today's 2x4, 2B, 2 R, BB, RBI performance. He has raised his MLB-leading batting average nearly 10 points from .336 to .345 at the tail end of the season. And by the way, his 220 hits now moved him past Hall of Famer Rod Carew's 218 in 1974, giving Altuve the most hits by a second baseman since another Hall of Famer, Charlie Gehringer's 227 in 1936. So... he's good, folks.
*Handsome Jake Marisnick hit his second 3-run homer in less than 24 hours, going deep with 2 on in the 7th to finish 2x5 with 2 R and 3 K.
*Jonathan Villar was 2x3 with a BB, a R, and a SB.
*Gregorio Petit went 2x4 with 2 K.
*Mike Bob Grossman was 1x4 with a R, a BB, and 2 K.
*Dexter Fowler went 1x4 with a BB, a R, and 2 K as the DH today.
*And Jason Castro finished 1x5 with a RBI single and 3 K.
Michael Saunders' home run in the top of the 5th pushed Seattle out to a 3-1 lead, but the Astros responded quickly in the bottom of the frame. Jonathan Villar led off with a walk, followed by a Robbie Grossman single that pushed Villar ahead to third. On Hisashi Iwakuma's next pitch, Jose Altuve doubled to LF, scoring Villar but stopping Grossman at third. Iwakuma intentionally walked Chris Carter to load the bases, then got Dexter Fowler to strike out swinging for the first out, so a double play on Alex Presley could have ended the threat. But Presley worked the count to 3-0, took a strike, then lined a fastball into CF that scored both Grossman and Altuve, putting Houston ahead 4-3, and ahead for good.
Man of the Match:
Alex Presley, hitting 9x26 (.346) in his last 7 games.
Goat of the Game:
By default, Chris Carter. But he's still just 2 behind Nelson Cruz (39) for the MLB home run lead.