Astros-Mariners Preview

Lance McCullers saw no issue with being removed halfway through the game in his last start against the Seattle Mariners despite not allowing a single hit.

That’s partly because the Houston Astros had roughed up Roenis Elias enough that McCullers’ services no longer were needed.

McCullers and Elias oppose each other again Friday night as the Astros seek a sixth straight victory in the opener of a three-game series in Seattle.

Houston’s winning streak began with Sunday’s 13-0 victory over the Mariners, when McCullers (3-1, 2.00 ERA) threw 90 pitches while walking four in five hitless innings. Manager A.J. Hinch decided the 21-year-old’s pitch count in his sixth career start was high enough to sit him with an 11-run lead.

”We pitch to win ball games and to get this team down the road into the playoffs,” McCullers said. ”Not going back out there was not a big deal.”

The right-hander hasn’t allowed more than three runs since making the jump from Double-A for his major league debut May 18. McCullers is one of multiple rookies contributing for the Astros (40-28) as they became the first AL club to 40 victories by capping a four-game sweep of Colorado with Thursday’s 8-4 victory.

Preston Tucker homered for the second straight day and fellow rookie Carlos Correa had three stolen bases. George Springer is batting .468 during an 11-game hitting streak after going 2 for 5.

Springer has hit in the leadoff spot for the last six games in place of reigning AL batting champion Jose Altuve, who has been receiving treatment for a hamstring injury.

”It never ceases to amaze me with this team,” Hinch said. ”Different contributions all the way through.”

Elias (3-4, 3.67) had been giving the Seattle rotation a boost by allowing two runs or fewer in five of his six starts before the Astros touched him up for eight over 3 1-3 innings Sunday.

”He just didn’t have much command, and it was a tough day for him in a lot of different ways,” manager Lloyd McClendon said of Elias, who entered that contest with a 2.79 ERA.

Houston wasted little time getting to Elias, scoring three in the first inning Sunday after plating two in the first and another in the second May 1 as Elias took the loss in the Astros’ 4-3 win May 1.

They’ve won eight of 10 meetings this season while outscoring the Mariners 64-34. Seattle (30-37), which has a .233 team average that is tied with Milwaukee for the worst in the majors, had trouble getting its offense going again Thursday, falling 7-0 to San Francisco and getting shut out for the fourth time during a 3-5 stretch.

Nearly half of the Mariners’ 17 runs in that slump – during which they’re batting just .185 – came in an 8-1 win over the Astros on Saturday. Seattle especially has had trouble at home lately, plating 18 runs while losing nine of 11.

Nelson Cruz hasn’t homered since May 27 and is 1 for 17 over his last five. Robinson Cano, hitting just .237, sat out Thursday with a stiff lower back, and Kyle Seager’s consecutive games streak ended at 192 when he was scratched with food poisoning.

It’s unclear if Cano and Seager will play as Houston seeks a seventh victory in the last nine meetings in Seattle.