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BAL@HOU: Norris fans seven against the Orioles

Pitcher's duels, 16-run outbursts or blowouts, it's all par for the course when the Astros and Mariners get together this season.

After a rare close game between the two Monday night, Seattle and Houston face off Tuesday at Safeco Field for the second contest of a three-game set.

Five of the teams' seven matchups in 2013 have been decided by at least three runs.

Houston has won four of seven against Seattle this year, a rare winning record for the Astros, who now sit 21 games below .500 despite a six-game winning streak to end May and open June.

Seattle manager Eric Wedge said Houston hasn't looked the part of cellar dweller against his team this season.

"They're a big league ballclub," Wedge said. "They took it to us twice in two series early on this year. And they're a better club now than they were then. You look at the way they compete against other big league clubs, they're right there. They've got a couple veterans and a lot of good young players. It's a challenge."

Looking to hold the Astros at bay again is Seattle starter Aaron Harang.

Harang gave up six earned runs to the Yankees his last time out, lasting only 2 1/3 innings while falling to 2-6 on the year. The veteran right-hander had allowed just one earned run in 15 innings over his previous two starts before facing New York, but he reverted back to some command issues against the Yankees and got the early hook.

"He's got to be able to fix it when he's a little off so he can get us deeper in the ballgame and give us a chance," Wedge said.

Countering Harang is another righty, Houston's Bud Norris. Norris pitched well his last time out, allowing only three runs over seven innings against Baltimore in a 3-1 home loss.

Norris faced the Mariners in April, getting the win with five innings of one-run ball. He had to work to get there, however, giving up eight hits and throwing 96 pitches.

"I definitely didn't have my best stuff by any means, but I battled ... and gave this team an opportunity to win, and we did," Norris said after that April outing.

Astros: Porter wants improved approach on offense
• A surprising outburst from the Houston bats carried the Astros to two straight series wins after Memorial Day. But those bats have since fallen silent, and entering Tuesday's game, Houston has lost six of its past seven games.

The Astros have not scored more than two runs in any of the six losses, and Houston manager Bo Porter hasn't been happy with his team's approach at the plate.

"Losing a game is one thing, but playing the game the right way is another thing," Porter said after losing the Royals' series. "As long as I'm here, we're going to play the game the right way. That was not playing baseball the way it is supposed to be played. Not understanding situations, that's just unacceptable. It was addressed, it's over and I think it will be a good learning experience for those guys."

Mariners: Injury-ridden lineup hampers Seattle
• Three ailments to meat-of-the order run producers doesn't bode well for any team, and the Mariners are no different of late.

With Justin Smoak (strained oblique), Kendrys Morales (sore back) and Michael Morse (strained right quad) all missing time or playing hurt, the Seattle offense has struggled.

The Mariners scored only seven runs while losing three of four to the Yankees last weekend and have scored more than four runs in a nine-inning game only once in June.

"We can beat anybody or lose to anybody, depending on how we play," Wedge said. "It's not that we're playing bad, but we're not hitting the ball the way we need to hit the ball. Some of it is personnel and some of it is approach, but it has to get better. Getting those guys solid again is important."

Wedge started Morse at designated hitter Monday and he doubled in the game-winning run in the seventh.

Worth noting
• Astros first basemen Chris Carter has hit four homers against Seattle this season, the most of any player against the Mariners in 2013.

• Norris has a 5.84 ERA in road starts this year, dramatically higher than his 2.28 mark at home. Comments