(SportsNetwork.com) - Seattle Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz has more home runs than some teams through 12 games this season.
Cruz looks to keep his powerful stroke going when the Mariners resume a nine- game homestand Monday with the first of three straight games versus the Houston Astros at Safeco Field.
The veteran Cruz has belted eight homers and driven in 14 runs, and went deep twice in Sunday's 11-10 victory over the Texas Rangers. His RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning plated Seth Smith for the game-winning run. Cruz hit a three-run homer in the third inning and a solo shot in the first for the Mariners, who pounded out 17 hits and have won two in a row after losing four straight.
"This team is a very gritty bunch. They're built for this. They're tough. Character-wise they're tough," Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. "We have a nice mix of veterans and young players. This team is built for greatness. I don't know what's going to happen but I like where we are."
Over his last eight games, Cruz is batting .484 with eight home runs and 14 RBI. He has more home runs than the Cleveland Indians (7), Miami Marlins (7), Philadelphia Phillies (6), St. Louis Cardinals (6) and Milwaukee Brewers (3).
Austin Jackson homered and Kyle Seager went 3-for-5 with three RBI. Jackson and Robinson Cano also recorded three hits apiece.
Hisashi Iwakuma will make his third start of the season Monday and is 0-1 with a 6.55 earned run average. He lost his 2015 debut on April 8 in a 5-3 defeat to the LA Angels, touched for five runs (4 earned) and nine hits in six innings.
Iwakuma then pitched five innings in a 6-5 loss against the Dodgers last Tuesday and yielded four runs with five strikeouts and three walks for the no- decision. The Japanese right-hander has made nine career starts against the Astros and is 4-4 with a 3.48 ERA.
The Astros will start a nine-game road trip Monday against Seattle, Oakland and San Diego, and went 3-3 on a recent homestand versus Oakland and the LA Angels. The Astros won two of three versus the Angels this weekend.
In Sunday's 4-3 win over Anaheim, Luis Valbuena hit a two-run homer in the third inning and Jose Altuve went 3-for-5 with a run scored. Astros starting pitcher Scott Feldman picked up the win with six innings of two-run ball and Luke Gregerson hurled a flawless ninth for his second save.
"He got stronger and stronger and I thought his best inning was probably his last," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Feldman.
Houston improved to 6-6 on the season, matching its best start since 2007, and is alone in first place in the AL West.
Monday's game will be Houston's first outside of the Lone Star State.
Astros rookie right-hander Asher Wojciechowski makes his second career start against the Mariners and pitched four innings of relief in last Monday's 8-1 loss versus Oakland. He took over for Scott Feldman, who gave up eight runs -- seven earned -- and 10 hits in five innings.
Wojciechowski's first start came against Cleveland on April 9, when he gave up four runs and eight hits in four innings of a 5-1 loss. He will face the Mariners for the first time.
Seattle went 10-9 against Houston last season.