Mariners turn to King Felix in opener with Astros

( - Seattle ace Felix Hernandez gets the ball for the Mariners on Friday night when they begin a three-game series with the host Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Hernandez and staff-mate Hisashi Iwakuma combined to go 26-16 with a sub-3.00 earned run average last season, but the Mariners have been without the services of Iwakuma since he suffered a finger injury in spring training.

He's penciled in as a starter for either game two or three of the series on the weekend.

Meanwhile, Hernandez will try again for his first triumph since April 11.

He had a three-run lead in his most recent start -- on Saturday against Texas -- but the Rangers came back to earn a 6-3 win. Hernandez was pushed back a day after the Mariners were rained out in New York on Wednesday.

"Felix has been taxed quite a bit and he's pitched on regular rest for quite a while," Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. "It's an opportunity to get him where we need him to be. His last two outings have not been sterling outings, I think we would agree."

He took a 7-2 loss to the Astros in an April 21 outing in Seattle that ended in a 7-2 defeat, allowing six runs on seen hits in seven innings.

For Houston, right-hander Brad Peacock makes his third start since returning to the rotation from the bullpen.

He allowed five runs in five innings of his most recent starting assignment, getting a no-decision in the Astros' 12-5 loss against Oakland one week ago.

Peacock defeated the Mariners on Sept. 11, 2013 after allowing just one run on three hits in six innings of a 6-1 verdict.

In four career starts against Seattle, he's 2-2 with a 7.20 ERA.

On Thursday in New York, Robinson Cano drew the ire of New York Yankees' fans once again, this time knocking in a pair of runs against his former club to help his new one, the Mariners, come through with a 4-2 victory that swept a rain-shortened two-game set.

Cano went a relatively harmless 1-for-5 with an RBI single while greeted with mostly boos in Seattle's 6-3 triumph over New York on Tuesday, the All-Star second baseman's first game at Yankee Stadium since signing a 10-year, $240 million contract with Seattle over the winter.

He did a bit more damage Thursday, coming through with a run-scoring double in his initial at-bat and an RBI fielder's choice in his second.

Rookie Roenis Elias (2-2) gave the Mariners quite a lift as well, striking out a career-best 10 batters while permitting just two runs -- one earned -- over seven strong innings. Michael Saunders added three hits, including an RBI double.

Meanwhile in Houston on Wednesday, Anthony Rendon went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and three RBI to lead the Washington Nationals to a 7-0 win over the Astros and a sweep of the brief two-game set.

Jesus Guzman went 3-for-4 with a double, the Astros' lone extra base hit. Jonathan Villar had two hits for Houston, which saw starter Brett Oberholtzer (0-5) get knocked around for six runs on 11 hits over 4 2/3 innings.

"We didn't generate much offense, and when we did we just could not get that big hit," Houston manager Bo Porter said.

Houston took two of three from the Mariners earlier in the year.