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Tue, Sep 10, 2013 - 10:10 PM ET
 

Astros-Mariners Preview

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Despite being without their lone All-Star again, the Houston Astros used strong pitching and a late rally for a series-opening victory over the Seattle Mariners on Monday.

Houston hopes Jordan Lyles' recent run of solid outings continues Tuesday night as the club seeks just its fourth series victory since the All-Star break in Seattle.

As far out of contention as the Mariners (65-79) are, the Astros (48-96) trail them by 17 games. However, they used five pitchers to limit Seattle to five hits in a 6-4 victory Monday.

Catcher Jason Castro - the club's on-base plus slugging leader at .835 - missed his second game in a row with a sore right knee, but it was Jonathan Villar providing a go-ahead two-run single in the top of the ninth. Abraham Almonte had put the Mariners ahead, 3-2, with his first career homer in the seventh inning in front of 9,808, the lowest announced attendance in Safeco Field history.

Castro hasn't caught since aggravating a cyst a week ago and is considered day-to-day, according to the team's official website.

Lyles (6-7, 5.08 ERA) has been credited with quality starts in three of his last four starts, though he's been susceptible to the home run, allowing six in 19 2-3 innings. All three runs he allowed over 6 1-3 innings of a 6-5 victory over Minnesota on Wednesday came on Alex Presley's homer, concluding a 13-pitch at-bat.

"You're just trying to make the next pitch go over the plate" Lyles told the team's official website. "He's pretty much seen everything you have up to that point, so hopefully he rolls over it or pops it up, but he put a good swing on it and put the ball on the barrel."

Lyles was roughed up in a 12-5 loss to Seattle on July 21, allowing a career-high 10 runs and eight hits in four innings. He limited the Mariners to three runs over 13 innings in two other matchups this year.

He'll be opposed by Joe Saunders (11-13, 4.95), who has had difficulty pitching deep into games. He failed to make it through the sixth inning for the fourth time in six outings in a 7-6 loss at Kansas City on Thursday. He yielded 11 hits and three runs, all of which were scored in the fifth of a 4 2-3-inning effort.

"Nothing changed," Saunders said of the fifth. "I made some good pitches. It was just tough to get the last out."

Saunders is 3-1 with a 4.50 ERA over four starts versus Houston this year. He threw 6 1-3 innings of a 3-0 victory in the lone matchup in Seattle on April 8.

Matt Dominguez - who is 2 for 20 over his last five games - is 5 for 11 off Saunders, while Brandon Barnes is 6 for 9.

Mariners rookie Nick Franklin did not start Sunday's game versus Tampa Bay after colliding with Justin Smoak on Saturday, but was 1 for 3 Monday and is 4 for 9 off Lyles with two homers.

Tagged: Mariners, Astros, Joe Saunders

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