- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - For the second time in three days, Houston could not solve the ace of a pitching staff.

First it was the Angels’ Jered Weaver. On Friday night, it was Seattle’s ace Felix Hernandez.

“This is the big leagues. If you want to play here and you want to compete here, those are the guys that are here,” Houston manager Bo Porter said. “They aren’t going to say, ‘we’re not going to throw those guys against you.’”

Hernandez struck out nine over eight strong innings for his third straight victory, and the Astros’ offensive slide continued in a 6-1 loss to the Mariners. Houston has scored three runs in its past three games and provided little help to Rudy Owens, who pitched adequately in his major league debut.

“We just couldn’t muster anything offensively against Felix and that was pretty much the difference in the ball game,” Porter said.

Owens was called up last minute from Triple-A Oklahoma City to get the starter after Brad Peacock was skipped due to soreness in his forearm. Despite the late notice, Owens‘ family was able to make the trip up from Phoenix to see him make his debut.

“I knew it was going to come. I put in all the hard work. I guess I needed to get a lucky break,” Owens said. “It’s been a long time coming. It’s been a frustrating road to say the least but I’m happy the way things worked out.”

After struggling through the first inning, Owens settled down. He kept Houston within 3-1 heading into the sixth despite allowing a baserunner in every inning.

The game got away from Owens (0-1) in just a couple of pitches. After giving up a double to Mike Zunino, Owens watched Willie Bloomquist hit the first pitch out for a two-run homer and a 5-1 Seattle lead. He got James Jones, but was lifted after giving up a two-out walk to Stefan Romero.

Owens allowed nine hits and five runs in his debut. His reward? A trip back to Oklahoma City. Owens was optioned back to Triple-A after the game and Brett Oberholtzer was recalled to make the start on Saturday.

“I will definitely work on my curveball. I was pitching without that today and it’s hard to miss bats,” Owens said. “My curveball wasn’t there for me. I’ve got to get back on the hill and work on it.”

The one batter Hernandez could not solve was Jose Altuve, who improved to 8-for-16 all-time against Seattle’s ace. Altuve had an RBI single in the third, doubled in the fifth and lined a single off Hernandez’s left calf in the eighth. Hernandez stayed in and started an inning-ending double play from Dexter Fowler to finish off the eighth.

It was the second straight start Hernandez pitched eight innings.

Felix was pretty darn good tonight in a lot of different ways,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Certainly with his pitch count he was very efficient and he fielded the ball with his glove and his leg.”

Bloomquist drove in three runs, but the highlight was his first long ball since Aug. 10, 2011, when he was playing for Arizona, a span of 626 at-bats. Bloomquist’s homer came on the first pitch after Zunino had doubled off the top of the wall, missing a homer by inches.

Bloomquist rounded the bases with a wry smile on his face and appeared to be catching plenty of grief in the dugout for the long lapse between homers. His last homer also came against Houston - when the Astros were still a National League team - and led off the bottom of the first inning.

“I know it’s been a while,” Bloomquist said. “That’s not my swing, but I’ll take them when they come if they ever come.”

NOTES: Mariners RHP Taijuan Walker (shoulder) threw a three-inning simulated game Friday and said he feels ready to go out on a rehab assignment. Walker has not pitched in a game this season. … Houston OF George Springer was held out of the lineup for second straight day after injuring his hip on Wednesday. … Jones’ hitting streak extended to 13 games with infield single in the fourth.

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