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Preview: Mariners at Astros

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Seattle Mariners attempt to continue their power surge on Friday as they vie for a season-high fourth consecutive victory in the opener of their three-game series against the host Houston Astros. Seattle completed a three-game sweep when it edged the Los Angeles Angels 4-3 on Sunday. Michael Saunders belted a two-run blast in that contest, extending the Mariners' franchise record to 22 consecutive games with a home run.

Seattle's homer streak is the longest in the major leagues since the Atlanta Braves went deep in 23 straight contests in 2006. The Mariners have hit a major league-high 37 blasts since June 20, with veteran Raul Ibanez launching 10 in 21 games during that span. Houston (33-61), which has struggled mightily in its first season in the American League, owns the worst record in baseball and has dropped five of its last six games.

TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports (Seattle), CSN (Houston)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Mariners LH Joe Saunders (8-8, 4.24 ERA) vs. Astros RH Bud Norris (6-8, 3.63)

Saunders has been superb over his last nine starts, going 5-3 while allowing fewer than two earned runs seven times in that span. The 32-year-old posted his third straight victory on Friday, when he scattered five hits over seven scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Angels. Saunders is 1-1 versus the Astros this season, tossing 6 1/3 scoreless frames in a home victory on April 8 before getting battered for eight runs and 11 hits in five innings of a loss at Houston 11 days later.

Norris has not pitched since July 9, when he was tagged for seven runs and 11 hits over five innings in a loss at St. Louis. The 28-year-old allowed three runs or fewer eight times in his previous nine starts but had just a 2-3 record during that stretch. Norris gave up one run over five innings in a victory over the Mariners at home on April 23 but suffered the loss at Seattle on June 11 despite surrendering just three runs in seven frames.

WALK-OFFS

1. Saunders has yielded a total of two earned runs over 20 2/3 innings during his winning streak.

2. The Astros have lost six of their last seven home games.

3. Seattle's home run streak is the longest in the AL since Texas set the major-league record in 2002 with a 27-game run.

PREDICTION: Mariners 6, Astros 2

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130719/preview-mariners-at-astros