- Associated Press - Thursday, April 28, 2016

SEATTLE (AP) - Jose Altuve is convinced the struggling Houston Astros are about to get as hot as he is.

Altuve opened the game with his third leadoff homer of the season, doubled twice and scored three runs to help the Astros avoid a sweep with a 7-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday night.

“Winning is always important to get your confidence up,” said Altuve, who has reached safely in 19 consecutive games. “It was very important for us to win this game. We’ve got a day off. I think this win is going to create some momentum and we’re going to go.”

Evan Gattis added three RBIs with a sacrifice fly and bases-loaded double for Houston, which improved to 8-15. After a day off Thursday, the Astros begin a three-game weekend series at Oakland.

Robinson Cano and Adam Lind had solo homers for Seattle, which earlier in the day announced a pending ownership shift from majority owner Nintendo of America to the team’s minority owners.

Both starters labored through five innings. Houston’s Collin McHugh (2-3) allowed two runs and five hits with one walk, but needed 101 pitches. Hisashi Iwakuma (0-3) allowed five runs and seven hits with two walks on 93 pitches.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud of more satisfied with a five-inning outing,” McHugh said. “Nothing’s coming easy right now, we all know that. It’s been a battle since the get-go this year.”

The Astros bunched four straight one-out hits for two runs in the third to go up 3-1. Consecutive doubles by Jason Castro and Altuve accounted for the first run, and George Springer and Carlos Correa followed with singles.

Seattle answered in the bottom half on a double by Seth Smith and RBI single by Cano.

Houston made it 5-2 in the fifth on a bases-loaded single by Colby Rasmus and Gattis’ sacrifice fly.

Lind, who hit 20 homers last season with Milwaukee, hit his first this year in the sixth to cut the lead to 5-3.

Gattis drove in two more in the seventh with a double off the wall in center field to increase the lead to 7-3.

“We’re not going to win with one hitter,” Hinch said. “We’re going to need contributions throughout and we saw that tonight. Gattis swung the bat very well, Springer got on a couple times, Rasmus came through with a big hit - we need a team offense.”

Seattle added a run in the ninth on Cano’s RBI groundout.

Altuve staked Houston to a 1-0 lead, lining a 2-0 pitch over the wall in left for his sixth home run.

“I think the biggest key with him is you got to get ahead, and today I wasn’t able to get strike one,” Iwakuma said. “So when you fall behind, he becomes a way better hitter because you have to throw a strike, and it’s pretty much to the fat part of the plate.”

Cano, who had a grand slam and six RBIs in Tuesday’s 11-1 victory, got the run back in the bottom half with his eighth homer, a two-out solo shot to right.

“That’s a good team over there,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “They are struggling a little bit, but they made the playoffs last year and they can do some things.”

TRAINING ROOM

Astros: RHP Lance McCullers, who opened the season on the 15-day DL with soreness in his right shoulder, threw 45 pitches in three innings in an extended spring training game on Wednesday and could be close to a rehab assignment. … CF Carlos Gomez was removed in the fourth after being hit on the right hand by a pitch. The team said X-rays were negative and Gomez was day to day with a contusion.

Mariners: OF Norichika Aoki, who had appeared in each of the first 20 games, was held out of the starting lineup. “He’s a high-energy guy, so sometimes you give him a blow,” Servais said. “With the off day tomorrow, it’s almost like two days to kind of regroup and recharge the batteries and get him back in.”

UP NEXT

Astros: RHP Mike Fiers (2-1, 5.73 ERA) makes his fifth start in the opener of the weekend series at Oakland on Friday. He has walked just three in his last four starts.

Mariners: RHP Felix Hernandez (1-2, 1.80 ERA) makes his fifth start Friday in the series opener against Kansas City. He is 4-5 with a 3.01 ERA in 12 career starts against the Royals.


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