The defending World Series champion Houston Astros aren't used to struggling.
And they're struggling right now.
Without All-Star middle infielders Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, who are both on the disabled list, the Astros suffered their season-high fifth straight defeat Monday night, a 2-0 loss to the American League West-rival Seattle Mariners.
Left-hander James Paxton, returning from a stint on the 10-day disabled list with lower back stiffness, outdueled Gerrit Cole in the opener of a three-game series at Safeco Field. Cole took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before giving up three straight hits with two outs, the key blow a two-run double by Nelson Cruz.
"Big picture, we have to get better, obviously. We just got shut out. I know (Monday) we had a little bit of a rough start, but I believe in these guys. This is not indicative of anything other than a really rough stretch," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Losing sucks. The frustration is mounting a little bit. Nobody is going to show up feeling great (Tuesday) because of how things have gone, but I think we will be fine."
The Mariners have pulled within three games of the division-leading Astros.
Morton is 2-2 with a 2.93 ERA in five career starts against the Mariners. He pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out eight, in a 9-2 victory against them on April 19 in Houston.
Leake is 6-5 with a 3.65 ERA in 13 appearances against the Astros, including 11 starts. He took the loss in his only start against Houston this season, suffering a 7-1 road defeat on April 18 in which he allowed five runs on seven hits in six innings despite striking out seven.
The Mariners could have two new members joining their bullpen, after general manager Jerry Dipoto made a pair of trades on Monday.
Seattle acquired left-hander Zach Duke from the Minnesota Twins and right-hander Adam Warren from the New York Yankees. That came after adding right-hander Sam Tuivailala from the St. Louis Cardinals last Friday.
"Adam Warren's been a very good big league pitcher throughout the course of his career," Dipoto said. "He kind of tends to get lost in the shuffle (with the Yankees), but he's really good and it's not the first time we've tried to acquire him, it's just the first time we've been successful in trying."
Duke will give the Mariners a second lefty in the bullpen, along with James Pazos.
"It's nice to have two," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "You can match up a little earlier sometimes. Pazos had a really good first half, and we used him a lot. He's still been very effective. Paz likes to come right after you. Duke does it a little differently with an array of pitches and angles and slots."