A string of strong pitching performances have the Seattle Mariners enjoying their best road stretch in more than two years.
Now they have a chance to keep it going with Hisashi Iwakuma on the mound.The All-Star looks to pick up his 13th win while leading the Mariners to their sixth straight road victory Sunday against the light-hitting Houston Astros.Joe Saunders provided Seattle its latest solid pitching effort, allowing an unearned run in 5 1/3 innings, as the Mariners won their third straight following a six-game home skid with Saturday's 3-1 victory. While they're nearing a fourth straight losing campaign, the Mariners (62-73) have a 1.80 ERA during their longest road tear since winning six in a row from April 17-30, 2011."It's a good turnaround for us," Saunders told the team's official website. "It shows character about what this team is about. It shows a lot. I think we've done that all year, to forget easily and turn the page quick."Iwakuma (12-6, 3.03 ERA) looks to guide Seattle to its first four-game road sweep since July 7-10, 2005, in Anaheim. He ranks in the top 10 in the AL in wins, ERA, opponent batting average (.225), innings pitched (184) and strikeouts (157).The right-hander seeks his third straight win, though he allowed three runs -- all in the second inning -- over six innings in a 4-3, 10-inning loss to Texas on Tuesday. He regrouped to retire 13 of the final 15 batters he faced.Iwakuma has been particularly sharp on the road, going 3-0 with a 2.36 ERA in his last four starts. The first outing in that stretch came in Houston on July 20, when he allowed two runs over seven innings in a 4-2 win.He's 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA with 26 strikeouts in three career starts against the last-place Astros (44-91).Although Jason Castro is hitting .419 over his last 11 games overall, he's 2 for 8 with three strikeouts against Iwakuma and 2 for 17 with 10 strikeouts in his last five versus the Mariners.The Astros, who are headed toward their third straight 100-loss season, have totaled eight runs and batted .200 while losing five straight."We just can't seem to be able to get the big hit," said manager Bo Porter after his team went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position Saturday.Houston will try to avoid its 22nd in 27 games at Minute Maid Park by giving the ball to rookie Brett Oberholtzer (3-1, 3.43).After going 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA over his first four starts, the left-hander allowed season highs of five runs and eight hits over 5 1/3 innings before leaving without a decision in Monday's 10-8 win over the White Sox.Oberholtzer hopes to bounce back against a Seattle team that has averaged 5.0 runs during its road winning streak. Mariners center fielder Dustin Ackley is 14 for 30 over his last eight games despite going 0 for 4 on Saturday.Rookie shortstop Brad Miller has gone 4 for 11 in this series, raising his average to .348 over his last 11 games.