Astros riding seven-game winning streak, send Verlander up against King Felix

Sunday's series finale between the Houston Astros and the host Seattle Mariners will feature two teams riding major power streaks.

In the Astros' 3-1 victory on Saturday -- Houston's eighth win in a row -- second baseman Jose Altuve became the first major league player this season to homer in five consecutive games, launching a 411-footer in the fifth inning off Felix Hernandez.

"I'm not the power hitter that we're all seeing right now, but I'll take it," Altuve, whose streak is the longest by an Astro since 2006, told "If I can keep hitting homers for my team, I'll be happy."

While the Mariners scored just one run, it came on a solo homer from Mitch Haniger, extending their MLB record of consecutive games with a home run to open the season to 17.

Those homers overshadowed what otherwise felt like throwback night on the mound at T-Mobile Park, as Houston's Justin Verlander and Hernandez sparred.

Sunday will bring a more youthful matchup of stud pitchers, with Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole going against Mariners lefty Marco Gonzales.

While Verlander and Hernandez have been longtime aces, Cole and Gonzales represent the future for both franchises. Cole is considered the Astros' No. 1A starter after Verlander, and Gonzales snapped Hernandez's decade-long streak of Opening Day starts this season.

While Cole (0-2, 3.32 ERA) is still searching for his first victory of the season, Gonzales (4-0, 3.16) has won each of his starts.

Cole, who went 15-5 last season and is 2-2 with a 2.31 in five career starts against the Mariners, hasn't pitched poorly. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his three starts.

He didn't get a decision Tuesday in the Astros' 6-3 victory against the New York Yankees despite going seven innings, as Houston didn't take the lead until the bottom of the eighth.

"I've just been trying to settle in and find a groove," Cole told "It was nice to battle a little bit (Tuesday). ... I just kept trying to make pitches the best I could and control what I can control. I executed mostly everything."

Astros manager AJ Hinch concurred.

"(Cole) was pretty awesome," Hinch said. "He's really hard on himself when he misses on one or two pitches. You see how emotional he gets on the mound when he doesn't execute a pitch. I love that about him. He's ultra prepared and dialed it up to get out of some issues. I love when he's on the mound."

Gonzales is coming off a 6-3 victory against the Kansas City Royals in which he pitched into the seventh inning. It came on a night the Mariners' bullpen was taxed because Hernandez had to leave after one inning the previous day with the stomach flu.

"I thought he threw the ball really well," Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Gonzales. "He emptied the tank. We were trying to get a few more outs out of him in the seventh because we were limited bullpen-wise."

Gonzales said he knew his role.

"I think after (Monday), it puts it into your mind right away that I need to come out and give my team what it needs," Gonzales told the Seattle Times. "During the game, you are just trying to focus on the next inning and one after the other. I was fortunate to get past the sixth into the seventh."

Gonzales became just the second Mariner in franchise history to win his first four starts of the season. Rick Honeycutt won his first six in 1980.

Gonzales downplayed the accomplishment.

"I'm pretty team-oriented," he told the Times. "I love that we are out swinging bats. Run support, I think that's the story to the start of the season. It's pretty comforting taking the mound when you know how our guys are swinging it."

Gonzales is 0-2 with an 11.42 ERA in three career appearances against the Astros, including two starts.

-- Field Level Media
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