When Seattle and Houston began their series Monday, it was a showdown between the bottom two teams in the American League West.
After a pair of Seattle wins, that's no longer the case, with the Mariners sitting in third place as they host the Astros on Wednesday for the final game of the series.
Seattle has shut down the Astros through the first two games, allowing only two runs and nine hits, evening the season series at 4-4.
Veteran Jeremy Bonderman gets the ball for the Mariners with a sweep on the line. He'll make his third start for the Mariners as he continues his comeback after sitting out two years with arm and shoulder problems.
Bonderman, 30, won his first game since Sept. 8, 2010, when he beat the Yankees on Friday with six innings of one-run ball. That was a big improvement from his first outing, when he got tagged for nine hits and seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in Minnesota.
"A big thing for me is I'm just starting to feel more part of the team and more comfortable around everybody," he said. "That helps in general with everybody. If you're comfortable in your work environment, you're probably going to play a little better.
"I probably was over-throwing a little the first game. My blood was pumping a little bit, and the last start, I slowed it down and started executing pitches. When you do that, you're going to be better off."
Bonderman said he's not the same pitcher as when he broke in with the Tigers earlier in his career, but he's learned how to pitch.
"When I was younger, I had a lot better stuff," he said. "But now I just pitch and don't worry about trying to throw it by guys. I don't care about strikeouts. You've got to learn how to slow it down, take the aggressiveness out of the hitters and use it against them."
Across the diamond, the Astros are wrapping up a woeful road trip. One thing has remained largely consistent despite five straight road losses, and that's their starting pitching.
Righty Jordan Lyles has been an integral part of Houston's solid pitching of late, and he'll get a chance to prevent a winless six-game road trip. In his last start, the 22-year-old took a no-decision after battling with Kansas City's James Shields, allowing only two runs and six hits with a walk in seven innings of work.
"I hope he continues to develop the way he's developed," said Astros manager Bo Porter. "He's been outstanding since we got him back from Triple-A, and I said it when he arrived, I think sometimes you take one step backward to take three steps forward. He is really maturing and understanding himself more as a pitcher and doing a tremendous job."
The youngster has limited his opponent to two or fewer runs in each of his last five starts. He is facing the Mariners for the first time in his career.
Astros: So long to Seattle for three months
• With new rivals comes new destinations, and the Astros have certainly become familiar with the Mariners and their home city. With Wednesday's game, Houston will have already played six in Seattle, nearly 2,000 miles from home.
The Astros enter the finale 2-3 at Safeco Field this year and won't return to the venue until mid-September.
"I think we embrace road venues, but you see different cities as a player all the time," Porter said. "How you play matters, not the ballpark or the place. We don't approach it any differently because it's a long trip or anything like that."
Mariners: Highly-touted Zunino could make debut
• Even as the third-overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, catcher Mike Zunino probably wasn't expecting to play in the big leagues so soon. The Mariners certainly weren't expecting him to.
He could get his chance Wednesday night, with Zunino receiving a Tuesday promotion from Triple-A Tacoma. Manager Eric Wedge has already said Zunino will split time with Kelly Shoppach behind the plate.
"Some of that will depend on him," Wedge said. "He doesn't have to come up here and play every day. That's not something he has to do. But he's going to play, and play consistently. We'll just see how it plays out."
• Mariners first baseman Kendrys Morales was scratched from Tuesday's lineup as he continues to battle a sore lower back.
Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.