(SportsNetwork.com) - Taijuan Walker makes his season debut on Monday night when the Seattle Mariners step into Minute Maid Park for the opener of a three-game set with the Houston Astros.
Walker, regarded as one of baseball's top pitching prospects, was 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA and had 46 strikeouts in 40 innings in eight minor league starts before getting the call to the big club.
However, Walker is already familiar with Houston, considering two of his three career starts came against the Astros last season. The right-handed flamethrower totaled 10 strikeouts in 10 innings in those two starts, and he allowed only two earned runs on seven hits.
"I've read and heard all the accolades. I saw a little bit of film, but I haven't seen him in competition," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. "Hopefully he goes out and gives us five or six good innings. We'll take it from there."
Opposing Walker will be Houston's Collin McHugh, who has emerged as a reliable starting option in the Astros rotation with a 2.86 ERA in 12 starts this season. The right-hander held Atlanta to three runs in seven innings his last out, as he struck out 12 and walked two.
"I think Collin is a great example of a guy who keeps working hard and putting us in a position to win ballgames," manager Bo Porter said. "We stand behind all our guys on the mound, and he's given us no reason not to be confident when he's out there."
Houston has won three of its last four after claiming a weekend series victory against Detroit. Jose Altuve continued his tear with a 3-for-5 effort at the plate and two more stolen bases. With that effort, he became the first player since Ray Chapman in 1917 to steal multiple bases in four straight games.
Altuve, who leads the majors with 36 steals and has not been caught in his last 23 attempts, is hitting an AL-best .347 on the season. The second baseman is hitting at a .510 clip over his last 12 games.
"I've seen some players locked in all my years of playing," Porter said. "But the impact with which Jose Altuve is having on the baseball game, I would have to really sit down and think about or have some numbers put in front of me that would make me think that there is someone who's had more of an impact on a baseball game the way he's having an impact right now."
Meanwhile, Seattle has won each of its last three series after taking two of three from Cleveland over the weekend. Felix Hernandez and Fernando Rodney combined for a one-hitter in Sunday's 3-0 win over the Indians. Hernandez notched nine strikeouts over eight innings before giving way to Rodney, who pitched a perfect ninth for his 23rd save.
The season series between these two teams is currently tied at 5-5. McHugh made his Astros debut against the Mariners back in April and pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out a season-high 12 batters.
06/30 10:45:41 ET