Even Nick Vincent isn't sure why what’s working is working.
There’s no new pitch. No magical mechanical tweak. No change in pitch rotation or approach. None of that. Vincent is simply on a roll with seven straight scoreless outings and 23 in his last 24 appearances.
In a Mariners bullpen that keeps tightening the screws, nobody is more lockdown these days than Vincent, who sports a club-low 1.86 ERA in a club-leading 40 appearances.
"It’s just working," he said. "Stick with it. When you’re rolling good, you stick with your thing and throw whatever the catcher puts down."
Vincent delivered a one-two-three inning in each of the three victories in the weekend sweep over the White Sox in Chicago. He got his 12th and 13th holds in the victories on Friday and Saturday before gaining the victory on Sunday.
It’s getting hard not to take him for granted. As manager Scott Servais noted simply after Sunday’s victory: "And, again, Nick Vincent, under the radar, does a great job."
The whole bullpen did a great job over the weekend in limiting the White Sox to one run and five hits in 14 innings. The relief corps sports a 2.61 ERA over its last 48 games.
Vincent admits his confidence has never been higher — and why not? He is 2-0 with 12 holds and an 0.86 ERA (two earned runs in 20 innings) over his last 24 outings.
"Oh, definitely," he said. "It doesn’t matter if you’re a hitter or a pitcher, when you’re rolling, you’re feeling good. It’s like (Saturday) night. A ball got hit hard, but a guy was there to catch it. It’s like things are going my way right now.
"Hopefully, it keeps going for the rest of the season."
***The Mariners are back in Houston for the first time since opening the season with three losses in four games at Minute Maid Park. The Astros hold a 7-3 overall edge in the season series.
***Lefty Ariel Miranda (7-4 with a 4.15 ERA) will start the opener to the three-game series, which begins at 5:10 p.m. Pacific time and can be seen on Root Sports Northwest. Right-hander Lance McCullers (7-2, 3.05) will start for Houston.
***McCullers is 5-2 with a 2.09 ERA in seven career starts against the Mariners, including 2-0 this year while allowing two runs in 11 innings. He also has 15 strikeouts in that span.
***Miranda is 1-2 with a 4.32 ERA in four career starts against the Astros but got a no-decision in his only previous start at Minute Maid Park. That was the fourth game of the season, when Miranda yielded two runs in five innings. The Mariners scored twice in the ninth for a 4-2 victory.
***Robinson Cano is 7-for-18 in his career against McCullers, while Kyle Seager is 5-for-16. But Nelson Cruz is 2-for-12, and Jean Segura is 1-for-9. No other current Mariner has more than seven at-bats against McCullers.
***George Springer is 4-for-11 with four homers in his career against Miranda. Carlos Correa is 3-for-11 with a homer, while Jose Altuve has three singles in 12 at-bats.
***Cruz’s homer in the 10th inning Sunday, which produced a 7-6 victory at Chicago, was his ninth go-ahead homer in extra innings since 2009. No other player has more than seven.
***Altuve leads the majors with a .350 average. Segura is batting .348 and ranks second in the American League. Segura is still two plate appearances shy of qualifying for the batting race, but adding an 0-for-2 to his totals drops him to .346, which would still be second in the league.
***Cruz leads the league with 73 RBIs.
***By a margin of .0001, this is a series between the top two clubs in the American League West. Houston (62-30) holds a 16 1/2-game lead over the Mariners (46-47) and Texas (45-46), but the Mariners’ winning percentage is .4946, while the Rangers winning percentage is .4945.
It was 39 years ago Monday — July 17, 1979 — that the Mariners played host to the All-Star Game at the Kingdome.
A crowd of 58,905 saw the National League score the winning run in a 7-6 victory when Lee Mazzilli of the Mets drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the ninth inning against Ron Guidry of the Yankees.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners