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Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners, April 30 - May 3, 2015

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Astros face division opponent Mariners after a 8-1 record on the road.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners, April 30 - May 3, 2015

Break up the Astros. Houston has won 12 of their last 15 games, and have won their last four series. The Astros sit four games ahead of the Angels and Mariners in first place in the American League West and are the only team with a winning record in the West.

The Mariners come to town, winners in six of their last ten games. Seattle swept a three-game series with the Rangers in Texas to start the week. The Mariners outscored the Rangers 10 - 4 in the series.

The Astros lucky in the aspect they will miss King Felix, while facing the Mariners' other four pitchers.

Season Series

Thursday marks the second series between the Astros and Mariners this season. In Seattle, the Astros took two of three from the M's. Houston rallied for two come-from-behind victories, scoring seven runs total after the eighth inning.

Luis Valbuena exploded for two home runs in game one, the bullpen combined for five innings of one-run baseball. In game two, Jose Altuve broke the game wide open with a base clearing double in the eighth as part of a five-run inning. Finally, former Astros pitcher J.A. Happ shut down the Astros high powered offense, allowing just two runs through 7.1 innings.

Pitching

Game 1: RHP Scott Feldman (2-2, 4.81 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) vs. LHP James Paxton (0-2, 6.86 ERA, 1.58 WHIP)
Game 2: RHP Samuel Deduno (0-0, 2.89 1.07 WHIP) vs. LHP Roenis Elias (0-0, 3.18 ERA, 1.59 WHIP)
Game 3: RHP Collin McHugh (3-0, 2.92 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) vs. RHP Taijuan Walker (1-2, 6.86 ERA, 1.83 WHIP)
Game 4: RHP Roberto Hernandez (1-2, 3.80 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (2-1, 2.30 ERA, 1.06 WHIP)

The Astros bats have been dynamite, but the starting rotation has been the straw that stirs the drink. Houston's team ERA is third-lowest (3.11) in the Major Leagues, and the starter's ERA (3.55) is eighth. The bullpen has been even better with the fifth-best ERA (2.27) in the majors. The Mariners are no slouches either, Seattle's starters have a 1.38 ERA in the last seven games.

Scott Feldman has rebounded after a seven-run outing in his second start this season with back-to-back quality starts. Feldman has three quality starts in four outings in 2015. After giving up 16 home runs in 2014, Feldman has yet to give one this season. Feldman has a 5-6 record with a 4.34 ERA in 13 career starts against the M's. James Paxton has a had rough start to the season, allowing 14 runs over his first three starts. Even when he has pitched well, the Mariners' defense has struggled behind him. Paxton gave up four runs (one earned) in last start, Seattle committed three errors in the game.

Game two will have two spot starters taking the mound. Long man Samuel Deduno makes the start with Brad Peacock out and Asher Wojciechowski in the minors. Roenis Elias steps in for the Mariners with Hisashi Iwakuma on the disabled list.

Collin McHugh hopes to keep the good times rolling, McHugh is 10-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 14 starts dating back to August 1. He has won three-straight starts against the Mariners, overall he has a 4-2 record with a 4.06 ERA against the M's in his career. Taijuan Walker has struggled this season, but the Astros have always been the teams he finds his groove against. In his career, Walker is 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA in five starts against Houston. In his other 10 major league starts, he is 1-5 with a 4.73 ERA.

Roberto Hernandez has done exactly what the Astros were looking for, he is keeping the game close and eating up innings as the fifth starter. Hernandez has three-straight quality starts coming into Sunday's game. Like Hernandez, former J.A. Happ has been the answer to who will be number two behind Felix Hernandez. Happ has four quality starts this season in as many starts.

Batting

The boomsticks were out for the Astros road trip, Housotn has ten home runs in their last seven games. During that same strech, Astros second basman Jose Altuve is batting .483 with five extra-base hits and three stolen bases. Jake Marisnick his so well (7-for-14, 4 extra-base hits) that he has been moved around the lineup, batting 4th and 7th hole while in San Deigo. George Springer appears to be finding his stroke with five extra-base hits in his last 27 at-bats.

Nelson Cruz continues his hot start in Seattle, leading the team with a .364 batting average in the team's last six games. Former Texas a&m Aggie Justin Ruggiano has worked his way in the Mariners' lineup .308 (4-13) with two doubles and two stolen bases in his last five games. M's catcher Mike Zunino has struggles continue, he  has gone hitless in his last 14 at-bats.

Prediction

Houston splits the four game series with the Mariners. If Deduno is able to pull out a win, then I'll start to believe this is a special season for the Astros. The Astros split the difference in the game in that Happ and Walker start.