Mariners measure themselves against Astros

Seattle needs more athleticism, run prevention to catch up to Houston

Mariners measure themselves against Astros

HOUSTON -- As the Mariners watched the Astros celebrate their first division title since 2001 -- when Scott Servais was a backup catcher for Houston -- one thing was clear in the wake of Sunday's 7-1 loss.

Seattle has some catching up to do in the American League West if it wants to compete with the young and talented Astros, who won 14 of 19 meetings with the Mariners this season.

The Mariners are 8-2 this September against the rest of baseball, but 0-6 against Houston, and those two series sweeps by the Astros are a huge reason why Seattle sits at 74-76 and has been losing ground in what had been a wide-open AL Wild Card race.

Servais, now the Mariners manager, acknowledges the Astros' talent and admires the approach they've taken while racking up a 91-58 record with two weeks remaining.

"They've had a really good season. You can't take it away from them," Servais said. "They have a very talented team, and they added pieces to it. The big thing when I looked at last offseason, they got much more balanced.

"They used to be pretty right-hand-dominant, but by picking up [Brian] McCann, signing [Carlos] Beltran and now they have the [Derek] Fisher kid coming in and [Josh] Reddick was a huge pickup for them. They got more left-handed bats in there. So they're much tougher to match up against. Then all those guys have had good seasons. They've all contributed, whether they've done it on the field, in the clubhouse, adding to their culture or whatever, it's been a good mix."

Servais says he can't worry too much about how the Astros are constructing their club, however, leaving that to general manager Jerry Dipoto.

"Going forward, I can't really focus on what other teams have done," he said. "That's Jerry's job maybe a little bit. But you focus on where we're at and how we need to get better and continue to grow as an organization and make your decisions based on that. But, yeah, they're at the top of the division. They set the bar, so to speak."

Servais does feel his Mariners are making strides, despite the lopsided results this year.

"Certainly our record against them is not good," he said. "There's probably other teams I'm sure they have a good record against, too. But for whatever reason, they've got big hits or made big plays late in games and we haven't. And that's the separator.

"We've made huge strides in our athleticism. That's one of the big things we've talked about -- with them and with Texas -- we needed to get more athletic and be able to defend, with run prevention being a big thing. Not just scoring. But we still have a way to go."

Indeed, for the season Seattle stands 69-62 against everyone besides the Astros. But Houston has had the Mariners' number for a while now, owning a 37-20 advantage over the past three seasons. And that lopsided deficit this year has put Seattle in a tough spot -- trailing the Twins by four games after Minnesota's loss Monday to the Yankees and the Angels by 2 1/2 in the race for the final Wild Card spot with 12 games remaining.

"We are running out of time," Servais acknowledged. "We've got to keep grinding and play hard. A lot of things can still happen. We play the Angels at the end of the year, which is a great thing for us. And the Twins are headed to play the Yankees. We need help, and we need to help ourselves. And that will start at home [against Texas] on Tuesday."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.