BEGINNING: M Test series against Astros, Soto joins Nats

A glimpse of what’s happening around baseball today:

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FEELING 15?

Rookie Julio Rodríguez and the Mariners can tie a franchise record with their 15th straight win as they open a home streak against leader AL West Houston.

Seattle entered the all-star break one win before tying the 2001 club for the franchise’s best run. They haven’t lost since July 1, and Rodríguez leads the team with 13 RBIs during the streak.

About the only downside to Seattle’s push is that Houston is 12-5 in the same span, keeping the Mariners 11 games behind in the divisional race.

SOTO WATCH

All-Star Home Run Derby champion and trade target Juan Soto joins his Nationals teammates to start a streak in Arizona.

Soto has been peppered throughout All-Star Week with questions about his future with Washington after recently rejecting a 15-year, $440 million contract. With their efforts to lock down the superstar pushed back, the Nationals could trade Soto before the August 2 trade deadline. This could be Soto’s last two weeks with his only franchise, where he won a World Series in 2019.

Soto, 23, is having a poor season by his high standards, hitting .250 with 20 homers, 43 RBIs and a .901 OPS for the Nats, who own baseball’s worst record.

CONFRONTATION AT CITI FIELD

The NL East-leading Mets open the second half of the season with three games against San Diego, starting with a matchup between aces Max Scherzer and Yu Darvish.

Scherzer (6-1, 2.22 ERA) will be making his fourth start since missing time with an oblique injury, and he’s 1-0 with a 1.40 ERA and 31 strikeouts since his return. Darvish (8-4, 3.41) threw two hits over seven innings in a 7-0 win over New York on June 7.

GOOD PLACES AVAILABLE

Major League Baseball is struggling to fill stadiums to pre-COVID levels as the sport enters the final 2 1/2 months of its first season since 2019 without capacity restrictions.

MLB reached the All-Star break with an average attendance of 26,409. That’s down 5.4% from the 2019 All-Star break — which was 10 days earlier than this year. League officials remain encouraged and point to recovery.

While average MLB attendance had fallen every year since 2015, most declines were less than 2%. Average attendance was over 30,000 for 14 consecutive seasons from 2004 to 2017, but has not reached that mark since.

“We’re back to 94 to 95 percent of where we were before the pandemic,” MLB chief revenue officer Noah Garden said. “We are therefore very pleased with the progress we have made on the attendance side, rebounding strongly from a situation that threatened the very core of our operation as an industry.”

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