BRENT STECKER

Dusty Baker ‘tired’ of Astros getting hit? His pitchers hit Mariners more

Sep 27, 2023, 1:53 PM | Updated: 2:58 pm

Seattle Mariners Astros José Altuve...

Houston's José Altuve reacts as he's hit by a pitch against the Seattle Mariners on Sept. 25, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

In the second game of the Seattle Mariners’ all-important series against the Houston Astros on Tuesday night, a pair of Astros had to wear some pitches from M’s relievers.

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First, Justin Topa’s initial pitch of the night was off the mark, and his sinker found the knee of Houston’s Yanier Díaz to open the seventh inning. A couple innings later, Mariners fireballer Andrés Muñoz uncorked a 99 mph fastball on his own first pitch in the game, which hit Astros outfielder Chas McCormick square in the lower back. That latter HBP was especially scary, as McCormick was down for a significant amount of time following the pitch.

After the game, Houston manager Dusty Baker addressed his hitters dealing with HBPs this season, according to Astros beat writer Chandler Rome of The Athletic.

“I’m tired of our guys getting hit,” Baker said, per Rome. “It makes guys a lot bolder when they don’t have to hit.”

That last part likely is Baker, a former MLB player himself, referring to pitchers not having to answer for any HBPs as they don’t hit for themselves with the designated hitter now universal in the American League and National League.

That’s not the part of the quote that stands out, though. That would instead be the fact that Baker brought this all up while playing the Mariners of all teams – because if anybody should be tired of getting hit, it’s the M’s. And that especially goes for when Seattle plays the Astros.

Mariners hitters enter Wednesday leading MLB in HBPs with 109, eight more than the New York Mets, who have the second-most HBPs. That of course includes first baseman Ty France, who leads all of baseball with 33 HBPs – 13 more than anybody else.

Houston pitchers have pegged M’s hitters 10 times this season, which is just one short of the most of any team (the Angels have hit the M’s 11 times and have played one more game against Seattle than the Astros). In fact, the Astros have hit the Mariners 33 times since 2021, while Seattle has hit Houston batters 22 times over the same span. That includes 15 times last year, which was the most HBPs the Mariners sustained against any opponent.

The Mariners have put the extra baserunners from all those HBPs to good use this year against Houston, by the way. Seattle is 9-3 versus the Astros going into Wednesday night’s final meeting.

This year, the Astros are essentially middle of the pack in HBPs, with their hitters being hit by a pitch 72 times this year, which ranks 12th in MLB and is just four above league average. The Mariners are responsible for only five of those HBPs.

Do you know what’s really funny? Houston pitchers have hit opposing batters 74 times this year – two more times than their batters have been hit. That’s the 10th most in MLB. Seattle pitchers have hit just 55 batters, which is lower than all but four other big league clubs.

What makes Baker’s comment coming during this pivotal late September series against the Mariners so rich is that the Astros have gotten this exact kind of thing wrong before. Why, it was just last year that Astros TV analyst Geoff Blum insinuated after then-rookie M’s pitcher George Kirby hit Altuve with the first pitch in a July 2022 game that Seattle pitchers will headhunt under the direction of manager Scott Servais. There’s really no proof of that, of course.

“You know what? There is a history on that Seattle side, and it starts at the top,” Blum said. “They’ve already had issues with the Los Angeles Angels.”

Those issues the Mariners had with the Angels? It was because Angels pitcher Andrew Wantz buzzed Julio Rodríguez with a high fastball early in a game, then hit Jesse Winker the next inning to start a wild brawl, likely egged on by LA manager Phil Nevin, who wasn’t pleased that Mike Trout had a pitch come near his head the night before (Trout was not hit, of course).

Going back to that July 2022 game in Houston, Kirby’s second pitch – an 81 mph breaking ball that came immediately after he hit Altuve – missed up and in, brushing back Yuli Gurriel. That lent credence to the idea that Kirby, who usually has pinpoint control, was having trouble finding it early on in a game against the Mariners’ biggest rival. Not that it mattered to Blum.

“The fans are booing, too,” responded Blum, “because they understand the reputation the Mariners have.”

OK, I guess that’s a way to look at it.

The Astros, meanwhile, have twice hit Mariners batters in recent years in ways that seemed to be intentional.

Remember when Houston’s Héctor Neris started this flap in 2022 by hitting Ty France?

What about Astros starter Framber Valdez earlier this year hitting Mariners second baseman Jose Caballero on the very next pitch after he gave up a home run to Dylan Moore?

Considering all of that, if Baker’s tired of his batters getting hit, just think of how the Mariners must feel.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Mariners taken aback by fan throwing ball, grazing George Kirby
Playoff-chasing Mariners punch back with 6-2 win over Astros
ESPN’s Passan: Seattle Mariners brass ‘needs to recognize’ Rangers’ path to success

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