Mariners, Astros go at it again in Houston

Hisashi Iwakuma will try to keep the lowly Houston Astros reeling as he takes the ball for the Seattle Mariners in the middle contest of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.

The Mariners' offense finally came to life on Monday helping Felix Hernandez pick up his 100th career win as Seattle took the opener of the set 7-1.

Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero each smacked two-run homers for the Mariners while Hernandez (2-2) fanned nine and surrendered five hits and a walk over six scoreless frames for Seattle, which had dropped five of its last six games coming in.

Hernandez had been stuck on 99 wins since his Opening Day victory at Oakland. He suffered subsequent losses to the White Sox and Rangers before taking a no- decision against the Tigers on Wednesday.

"It's a great accomplishment," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. "I'm glad it's behind him. Obviously, it's something you can't not think about as a pitcher, a player, or even as a manager or coach. I was really happy for him to be able to accomplish that. And to do that at such a young age, he's accomplished so much."

Seattle's offense, which averaged an American-League worst 3.05 runs per contest coming in, had totaled only 13 runs over its last eight games.

Rick Ankiel hit a solo shot for Houston, which has lost eight of its last nine tilts. Brad Peacock (1-2) allowed seven runs on nine hits and a walk over 4 1/3 innings to pick up the loss.

"It's tough," said Carlos Pena. "We take pride in what we do and every time we lose, it just eats away a little piece of us. There's no doubt about that."

Iwakuma, who has never faced the Astros before, has been brilliant early this season, winning two of his fours starts and never allowing more than three runs, The emerging Japanese star has allowed just 12 hits and two walks over 26 2/3 innings, compiling an amazing 0.53 WHIP.

In his previous start, Iwakuma tossed six scoreless innings against Detroit last Thursday, but had to leave after developing a blister on his right middle finger and did not get a decision in what turned out to be a 2-0 M's win.

"It is what it is," Iwakuma told the mariners' website through an interpreter. "There's nothing much we can do about it. Just keeping the team in the ballgame is all I can do and just dealing with the situation is all I have to think about.

Right-hander Bud Norris, who has two of the Astros' paltry five wins this season, will oppose Iwakuma. Norris, who has never faced Seattle in his career, is coming off by far his worst start of his career, getting plastered for six runs and failing to get out of the first inning in what turned out to be a 7-5 Houston loss to Oakland last Wednesday.

"I don't know what to say," Norris said after the disastrous outing. "I felt good but they were finding holes."