- Associated Press - Thursday, April 28, 2016

SEATTLE (AP) - Last season’s slow start is just a distant memory for Seattle’s Robinson Cano.

Although the Mariners dropped a 7-4 decision to the Houston Astros on Wednesday night for just their second loss in eight games, Cano continued his torrid offensive pace.

Cano hit his eighth home run, matching his career high for the month of April. He also singled in a run and had an RBI ground out, giving him 24 RBIs in 21 games, surpassing his old April best of 21 RBIs.

His fast start is a far cry from last season, when he hit .238 with four homers in his first 74 games, then hit .330 with 17 home runs and 55 RBIs in the final 82 games.

“That’s what I’m trying to do, take advantage anytime I get a man in scoring position,” said Cano, who had a grand slam and six RBIs in Tuesday’s 11-1 victory. “Compared to last year, I was slow in the first month in the first half. Somedays it works, and sometimes you got to go home and try to get stronger in those situations.”

Seattle, which earlier in the day announced a pending ownership shift from majority owner Nintendo of America to the team’s minority owners, was prevented from completing the series sweep in large part by Jose Altuve, who opened the game with his third leadoff homer of the season, doubled twice and scored three runs.

“Altuve’s swung the bat well for his whole career, so this is not surprising to anybody,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I love the adjustments he’s making, he’s making good decisions on which pitches to swing at. He’s a tough out. I think the whole league knows it.”

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 thought overall my fastball was all right,” Iwakuma said. “I did lose command a couple pitches but when I needed to execute I couldn’t execute and they made me pay for that.”

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.

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

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


Lind is hitting .324 (14 for 41) in his last 12 games with two doubles and three RBIs.


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,” manager Scott 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.”


With two outs and one aboard in the fifth, a towering fly down the right-field line by Smith was ruled foul. The call was upheld after a crew chief review estimated at 1 minute and 49 seconds.


Astros: Houston resumes its six-game road trip on Friday with the opener of a three-game series at Oakland. RHP Mike Fiers (2-1, 5.73 ERA) makes his fifth start. He has walked just three in his last four starts.

Mariners: After an off day Thursday, Seattle opens a three-game series at home against Kansas City. RHP Felix Hernandez (1-2, 1.80 ERA) makes his fifth start. He is 4-5 with a 3.01 ERA in 12 career starts against the Royals.

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