It's been a rough month for Mariners ace Felix Hernandez as he seeks his 100th career win.
It started on April 6, when the goal was halted after Hernandez gave up four earned runs in his first loss of the season. His second bid on April 11 was nixed because of a balanced 11-for-36 night from the Rangers' lineup. He picked up a no-decision in his third try last week against the Tigers.
Skipper Eric Wedge doesn't think the pursuit of the milestone has been a distraction for his top starter.
"Not for me. Felix always comes across very consistently, with his actions and the way he does his work," Wedge said. "I haven't noticed anything."
Hernandez was stellar in his pitching duel with the Tigers' Max Scherzer in his last outing, throwing six scoreless innings before allowing his only run of the night. King Felix allowed four hits through eight innings while fanning 12 Tigers hitters.
The Astros' lineup could have a tough time Monday, as many of the players haven't seen much of Hernandez over their careers. Houston didn't see the ace in their series win in Seattle earlier this month, and catcher Jason Castro said his club will have to be even sharper than usual.
"He's one of the best pitchers in baseball for a reason. I've watched him on video a little bit and he's got a lot of quality pitches. He does a good job attacking the zone, so we need to make sure when we do get our pitches, we don't miss it," Castro said. "He's one of the guys who can attack you in a lot of different ways with his breaking ball and changeup and different things like that, so it's something we've got to bear down and have good at-bats continuously throughout the game."
Coming off their 5-4 loss to the Indians on Sunday, the Astros will hope to bounce back as Brad Peacock makes his fourth start. Peacock is 1-1 this season and has yet to pitch past the fifth inning in any of this three starts. The right-hander gave up three earned runs through 4 1/3 innings against the A's last Tuesday, but hasn't thrown poorly overall.
Peacock has allowed 11 hits with seven walks through his 13 2/3 innings this season, and looks to gain some needed experience against the Mariners on Monday. The second-year pitcher is a career 1-0 against Seattle following his first career look at the team this month, when he allowed three earned runs through five innings.
Astros: Shoring up the bullpen
After watching their long relievers throw multiple innings in Saturday's loss, the Astros called up lefty Brett Oberholtzer from Triple-A. Houston is tied for the fewest saves in the American League this season, and manager Bo Porter is looking for a change.
"Having guys down in the bullpen as long guys is vital to the overall success of the team," Porter said. "You look at the short sample in which we've had this year, and they've saved us quite a few times, times when our starter has gotten in trouble early and other times we wanted to bridge to the back end of our bullpen."
Oberholtzer allowed three hits and two earned runs through two innings in his Majors debut Sunday.
Mariners: Wedge looking for answers
Wedge is looking for answers for his offense following the Mariners' 11-3 loss to the Rangers Sunday. Before Sunday's game, Wedge said he isn't heaping all the blame on youngsters Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero. Last year, Chone Figgins was benched after about a month when he failed to hit, but Wedge said there is a difference.
"There is because they're on the climb," Wedge said. "With Figgy, it was kind of like one last chance after a couple other last chances that he'd already had. And the focus shouldn't be on the young players right now. If anything, the focus should be on the veterans. They're the ones that should be leading the way. It's easy to pick on the young players, but everybody is accountable for this."
Montero didn't appear in Sunday's game for Seattle, while Ackley went 1-for-3 in the loss.
• First baseman Justin Smoak has a nice history at Minute Maid Park. In three games in Houston while playing for the Rangers, Smoak went 7-for-14 with two home runs and eight RBIs.
• Hernandez will be making his second career start against the Astros, having lost a game in Houston on June 15, 2007 when he gave up 12 hits and four runs in six innings.