The Seattle Mariners are enjoying their longest winning streak of the year. They would appear to have a good chance to extend it with Felix Hernandez on the hill.
Hernandez tries to win a season-high sixth consecutive decision as the visiting Mariners go for a sixth straight victory Sunday against the Houston Astros.
After taking Friday’s opener 10-7, Seattle (45-52) pulled out a 4-2 victory Saturday despite managing one hit - a tiebreaking two-run double from Michael Saunders with two outs in the seventh inning.
“That was the longest double I’ve ever had,” Saunders said. “I definitely put a good swing on it. I guess if the hill isn’t out there, maybe he runs it down. Or if the hill isn’t out there, maybe it’s a home run. I don’t know. But it fell, we won and that’s all that matters.”
The Mariners have hit 10 homers and outscored opponents 32-15 during their winning streak, their longest since posting eight consecutive victories Aug. 14-22. They became the second team since 1916 to score at least four runs with one or no hits, and the first since the Chicago White Sox were no-hit but beat the New York Yankees 4-0 on July 1, 1990.
The Mariners now turn to Hernandez (10-4, 2.53 ERA), the AL leader in ERA. The right-hander, who pitched a scoreless inning in the All-Star game Tuesday, has won back-to-back starts and gone 5-0 with a 2.56 ERA in his past nine outings.
Hernandez had everything working his last time out, allowing seven hits in eight innings to beat the Los Angeles Angels 6-0 last Saturday.
“Felix did a great job. He had to work hard a couple of innings, but as he usually does, makes pitches and gets through it and gets out of it,” manager Eric Wedge said.
Hernandez baffled the Astros in a 7-1 road victory April 22, going six scoreless innings and striking out nine.
Houston (33-63) has dropped four straight and 14 of 17 after Saturday’s bizarre loss.
“I would say it was the strangest game I’ve been involved from little league to the big leagues when you give up one hit and punch out 15 guys and end up on the losing side of it,” said manager Bo Porter, whose club has been outscored 56-23 during a 1-8 stretch at home.
“But it’s crystal clear how we ended up on the losing side of it. When you walk (six) guys and all four of their runs that score are via the walk, there’s no defense for it.”
The Astros have walked 14 in the first two games of this series and are second in the major leagues in walks per nine innings at 3.67.
Carlos Pena, mired in an 8-for-65 (.123) slump, has gone 1 for his last 19 against the Mariners.
The Astros try to bounce back behind Jordan Lyles (4-3, 4.02), who went 0-2 with a 6.14 ERA in his final four starts before the break. The right-hander yielded four runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-4 loss at St. Louis last Wednesday.
“A couple breaking balls got away, but for the most part, fastball command was pretty good,” he said. “Just need to make better pitches.”
Lyles allowed three hits and struck out a career-high 10 over seven scoreless innings but didn’t get a decision in a 6-1 win at Seattle on June 12. That was the only time he’s faced the Mariners.
Lyles has gone 2-1 with a 2.64 ERA in his last five home starts.