Valbuena hits 2 HR in Houston's 7-5 victory over Seattle
SEATTLE (AP) Luis Valbuena expects to play well, even this well.
The Houston third baseman hit a pair of solo home runs, including a go-ahead shot in the eighth inning, to give the Astros a 7-5 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Monday night.
It was the Valbuena's fifth home run in the past seven games and second career multiple homer game. Since April 11, the career .229 hitter is batting .323.
''I'm not surprised,'' said the 29-year-old with his fourth big league team. ''That's how I've worked in the cage and in the practice. That's how I work, I try to bring to the game. I try to hit ball hard every at-bat.''
Valbuena, who started the scoring with a drive in the first inning, opened the eighth with a shot to right on 1-1 pitch from Danny Farquhar (0-1), the first homer allowed by and Astros reliever this season. That broke the 5-all tie.
''I was looking for a cutter. He threw me that pitch,'' he said. ''I try to be aggressive with that pitch.''
Jed Lowrie added an RBI single in the inning.
Colby Rasmus also connected, on a 2-0 pitch from starter Hisashi Iwakuma in the fifth.
Tony Sipp (1-0), who worked the seventh and eighth, picked up the victory.
The Astros had nine hits, six for extra bases.
''It's nice to have some big hits. We've got to mix in some singles here and there,'' Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. ''We're pretty good with extra-base hits.''
The Mariners had come back twice behind the middle-lineup strength of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. They went a combined 6 of 12 with four doubles, three RBIs and four runs scored.
Over the last seven games, those 3-4-5 hitters have have combined to hit .452 with eight doubles, eight home runs and 21 RBIs.
''Cruz has been doing it from the get-go so thankfully me and Robbie are starting to get going,'' Seager said. ''The impact of Cruz is huge. You can't pitch around Robbie and you have to be real careful with him.''
Luke Gregerson entered the ninth knowing he had to face the trio to earn the save.
''The lineup card's there. The games going on, it's on the Jumbotron. It's hard to miss it,'' Gregerson said.
He induced Cano to hit back to him. Cruz flied out to right. Seager walked but Gregerson struck out Seth Smith for his third save.
''Anytime you go out there and get guys out, no matter what the situation is, it's always a positive,'' he said. ''I'm just really happy right now the way the ball is coming out of my hand.''
Mariners: SS Chris Taylor (broken right wrist) appears fully recovered and is playing for the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers.
Astros: RHP Josh Fields (strained right groin), who began the season on the DL, was expected to pitch two innings Monday for Triple-A Fresno. ... LHP Brett Oberholzer (left index finger blister) was expected to throw batting practice Monday at extended spring in Kissimmee.
Mariners: RHP Taijuan Walker (0-2, 17.18) made some progress from his first start to his second. In his season opener, he allowed nine runs in 3 1-3 innings then cut it back to five runs in four innings. All three of his career victories have come against Houston, 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA.
Astros: RHP Colin McHugh (2-0, 1.54) likes Safeco Field: 2-0 with a 0.61 ERA (one run in 14 2-3 innings) with 16 strikeouts in his two career starts. In his last start at Safeco on Sept. 9, he allowed one hit in eight innings. He appears unaffected by a tender finger that limited in his opening start.
PLAYER OF THE MONTH?
Cruz had six home runs, 10 RBIs and hit .500 for the week, good enough to be named AL Player of the Week, April 13-19. ''Probably player of the month. I think it would be hard pressed to beat that,'' Manager Lloyd McClendon said. It was Cruz's fourth career player of the week honor. Cruz, who started the season at 1 for 15, said what turned him was ''just a feeling. One swing can change whatever you're feeling at the plate.''
REST FOR CARTER
Astros 1B Chris Carter, mired in a 3-for-40 slump, did not start. He hit 37 home runs with 88 RBIs last season but does not have an extra-base hit or a RBI this season, with 17 strikeouts. ''It takes 30 to 40 at-bats to get to a bad number and it's going to take 30 to 40 to get back out of it,'' Hinch said. ''It's going to take more than one day for him to feel great about it.'' Carter entered the game in the sixth as a pinch hitter and struck out. He fanned again in the ninth.