Mariners-Astros Preview

For the first time in 2014, the Seattle Mariners could hand the ball to their top two starters in the same series.

Ahead of Hisashi Iwakuma’s possible return, Felix Hernandez looks to lead the Mariners to their sixth win in seven contests Friday night in the opener of a three-game road set against the Houston Astros.

Iwakuma and Hernandez gave Seattle (12-14) a solid pairing atop the rotation in 2013, combining to go 26-16 with a 2.84 ERA over 64 starts. The Mariners, however, have been without Iwakuma after he suffered a finger strain during spring training.

Though manager Lloyd McClendon has not announced a starter for Saturday or Sunday, he said it’s possible the All-Star could come off the disabled list for one of those games.

Hernandez (3-1, 2.40 ERA) will first try to pick up his first victory since April 11 after he was unable to protect a three-run lead Saturday. The right-hander allowed three runs and walked three over six innings as visiting Texas rallied for a 6-3 victory.

After Wednesday’s rainout against the New York Yankees, Seattle took advantage of an opportunity to push Hernandez back a day as they seek a season-high fourth straight win.

"Felix has been taxed quite a bit and he’s pitched on regular rest for quite a while," 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."

One of those performances came against the Astros (9-19) on April 21 when Hernandez struck out four and gave up season highs of six runs – two earned – and seven hits over seven innings in a 7-2 home loss.

Matt Dominguez had a home run, double and three RBIs off him, while Alex Presley went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Presley also went 6 for 12 in that series, helping AL-worst Houston take two of three in Seattle.

Hernandez has struck out 16 over 12 scoreless innings while winning his last two starts at Minute Maid Park. He’ll face a Houston team that ranks at or near the bottom of the majors in runs (88), batting average (.210) and on-base percentage (.282).

Jesus Guzman and Jonathan Villar combined for five of the team’s nine hits Wednesday as Houston was blanked for the third time in a 7-0 home loss to Washington. Villar has been a bright spot with seven hits in 16 at-bats over his last five games.

Chris Carter has gone 7 for 15 with two home runs in his last four versus the Mariners, while Dominguez is 9 for 18 with two homers in his last five meetings.

Brad Peacock (0-2, 5.95) seeks his first victory in his third start since moving into the rotation. He did not factor in Friday’s decision after giving up five runs – three earned – with a career-high six walks over five innings in a 12-5 loss to Oakland.

Although the right-hander is 2-2 with a 7.20 ERA in four career starts against the Mariners, he held them to one run and three hits over six innings in a 6-1 win Sept. 11.

He’ll try to cool off Robinson Cano, who is batting .371 over a nine-game hitting streak. Kyle Seager is also 10 for 23 with five homers and 11 RBIs during a 5-1 stretch.

Seattle has won six of the last seven meetings in Houston.