- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - Nelson Cruz homered twice, and even took part in a three-homer inning for the Seattle Mariners.

These days, not even that is enough to stop the Houston Astros.

Taijuan Walker was tagged and the Astros won their ninth in a row, beating the Mariners 11-4 Saturday night.

“I’ve been in a pretty nice groove the last few weeks,” Cruz said. “It’s nice. Hopefully, I can get some runners on and do that damage also. It looks like every time I’ve got runners on I left it up there.”

Cruz’s two solo shots gave him 13 home runs and 25 RBIs, both tops in the majors.

After two consecutive solid starts, Walker (1-3) struggled. The Astros hit five home runs, three off him.

“I just feel like I didn’t use my fastball enough like I did my last two starts,” Walker said. “First inning I pounded them with fastballs and got groundballs with it and then the second inning I just felt like I didn’t throw the fastball enough. They hit my off-speed, hit my mistakes.”

Jose Altuve finished Walker with a three-run homer in the fourth. Luis Valbuena greeted reliever Yoervis Medina with another home run.

“He was throwing the fastball good but you can’t throw all fastballs,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “And I caution people before: Taijuan is a very talented young man and he’s going to make us all proud, but there are going to be growing pains. Right now we’re hoping three out of five starts are good.”

Walker allowed eight runs and nine hits. He had given up two runs over his last two starts and had only permitted one home run this season.

“I’ve found that I have more success working off my fastball,” Walker said. “I felt like the last outing I worked off the fastball and the one before that, and I feel like it made my off-speed better. If I don’t have my fastball established I feel like they see the off-speed better and just hit it.”

Collin McHugh (4-0) settled down and won his 11th straight decision dating to last August. He gave up four runs in seven innings.

Evan Gattis, Colby Rasmus and Hank Conger also homered for Houston. Logan Morrison and Mike Zunino connected for the Mariners.

Gattis’ two-run shot gave the Astros a 4-3 lead in the third, and Rasmus followed with a homer.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mariners: RHP Tom Wilhelmsen will throw a bullpen session on Sunday after throwing a 25-pitch bullpen session on Friday. He went on the disabled list April 13 with a hyperextended right elbow.

UP NEXT

Mariners: LHP J.A. Happ (2-1) will look to continue his string of success to start the year in the final game of the four-game series against Houston. He struck out a season-high nine against Texas in his last start April 28 and has allowed six earned runs in four starts this season.

Astros: RHP Roberto Hernandez (1-2) goes for his second straight win after earning his first victory since Aug. 26, 2014, in his last start at San Diego. He allowed three runs on six hits in seven innings at Seattle on April 22 in a loss.


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