The Mariners enter Sunday's series finale at Minute Maid Park looking to kick off the last month of the regular season with a sweep-clinching victory. The Astros, owners of baseball's worst record, are trying to salvage a win from the four-game set and finish the year somewhat strong, as they did in 2012, when they went .500 after the calendar flipped to September.
"Whether you're fighting for a pennant race or you're out of playoff contention, you owe it to yourself as an organization to constantly evaluate the players that you send out on the field," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "That's an ongoing process each and every day."
All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (12-6, 3.03 ERA) will do his best to lock down the Mariners' fourth straight win, while Houston left-hander Brett Oberholtzer (3-1, 3.43 ERA) will try to help the Astros snap a five-game losing streak.
Iwakuma is 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA against Houston this season. In the one loss, he gave up just two earned runs while notching a season-high 11 strikeouts over five innings. He most recently pitched against the Rangers last Tuesday, when he allowed seven hits and three runs across six frames.
"I thought they did a nice job -- they made him work," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said of the Rangers' approach. "They were fouling some pitches off, but he controlled damage. What was impressive was the way he came back after that and got us deeper in the ballgame."
Oberholtzer became a member of the Astros' rotation on July 31, when he received the first of his four decisions. He owns a 2.53 ERA in 32 innings as a starter. In his last outing -- the shortest of his career -- the southpaw surrendered four earned runs over 5 1/3 innings at U.S. Cellular Field.
"I battled myself more so tonight than I ever have being up here in the big leagues. You know what, that's going to happen," Oberholtzer said. "I'm not going to have great outings all the time, great results. Tonight was a testament of myself battling and trying to make quality pitches, even though I didn't feel that great tonight."
Mariners: Almonte 'sticks out' with talent
• Outfielder Abraham Almonte started Saturday for the second day in a row, going 1-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts from the eighth spot in the order. Wedge was anxious to see the switch-hitting Almonte hit from the right side against lefty Dallas Keuchel on Saturday after hitting from the left side in his debut, in which he became the seventh Mariners hitter to collect two RBIs in his first Major League game.
"It's all about juggling the outfield," Wedge said Saturday. "And Michael Saunders has a bit of a tight hamstring. He felt it last night. It's better today, but no sense taking any chances with it."
On Friday, Almonte beat out a potential double-play grounder in the fourth inning, allowing Justin Smoak to score from third on the play. He later drove in his second run with his first big league hit, a single in the eighth.
Said Wedge: "Obviously, his speed sticks out."
• Seattle's list of September callups already includes former closer Tom Wilhelmsen, catcher Mike Zunino and pitcher Erasmo Ramirez. The club will likely call up a few more players in the coming days.
Astros: Altuve singles in front of father
• Jose Altuve's seventh-inning single on Saturday did more than snap an 0-for-8 slide. It also marked the first time that Altuve had a base knock in a Major League game with his father in attendance.
Carlos Altuve flew to Houston from his home in Venezuela and first saw his son play Friday, before watching Jose collect a single on Saturday.
Knowing that his father was in the stands to see him play was extremely significant for the younger Altuve.
"That's really important to me," Jose said. "He told me he's going to enjoy his time here and watch me play, even if I get hits or not. He said he's just happy seeing me for the first time playing."
"He's been giving me support all my life and I appreciate that, and I'm happy here's here with me."
• In the first of their September callups, the Astros announced after Saturday's loss that right-hander Jorge De Leon and outfielder Trevor Crowe were recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City and would be active for Sunday's game.
• Houston has averaged 1.6 runs per game during its current five-game losing streak.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.