Astros' McCullers comes off DL to face Mariners

SEATTLE -- The Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners have decidedly different outlooks for reaching the postseason, and also with their pitching choices for the series finale on Wednesday.

Houston, with a 13 1/2-game lead in the American League West, is scheduled to start right-hander Lance McCullers fresh off the disabled list.

Seattle, three games back in the chase for the second AL wild card, made a change in its scheduled rotation. Rookie right-hander Andrew Moore will get the nod, bumping Mike Leake to the series opener Friday against the Los Angeles Angels, who currently occupy the final AL playoff position.

McCullers (7-3, 3.92 ERA) is scheduled to make his first start since July 30. He has been sidelined due to back discomfort.

"Obviously, we will be cognizant that he's only gone five innings in his rehab starts, so he's a little bit behind than he usually is going into that September start," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.

McCullers won his final four starts in May but went 1-2 in eight starts in June and July, lasting longer than 5 1/3 innings once. Even so, Hinch is counting on McCullers to regain his early-season form for the September push.

"I would expect him to be good," Hinch said. "Obviously, we need him to be good. These are all very important games, and we're giving him the ball with the expectation that he's going to put us in a position to win."

In his first rehab start, McCullers allowed three runs in one inning with five walks for Triple-A Fresno. He fared better in his second outing on Aug. 30 for Double-A Corpus Christi, giving up two runs on five hits in five innings.

"I felt really good about it," he said of his second start. "My (velocity) was good, my location was way better. In the Fresno start, what really got me was I didn't have command of my curveball ... I hadn't thrown it since the (July 30) start, so it had been almost a month since I had thrown it."

McCullers is 5-2 with a 2.70 ERA in eight career starts against the Mariners, allowing just one home run and registering 55 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings.

Moore (1-3, 6.34 ERA) was the Mariners second-round pick in 2015. He began the season at Double-A Arkansas but was promoted after six games to Triple-A Rainier in early May.

He made his major league debut on June 22 at Safeco Field against Detroit, allowing three runs in seven innings for the victory in a 9-6 Mariners win, but was sent back down the following day.

Moore was called up again from July 3-28, going 0-3 with a 6.07 ERA in five starts, allowing 10 home runs in 29 2/3 innings. He was brought up again Aug. 11 and pitched in relief before being sent down again the next day.

He was recalled again Sept. 1 and has not yet appeared for the Mariners in his latest stint. He was told Monday that he would get the start Wednesday.

"We'll fire him out there and hopefully he'll give us four or five real good innings and we'll take it from there," Seattle manager Scott Servais said.

After an off day Thursday, the Mariners open a three-game series against the Angels to wrap up a nine-game homestand. Seattle plays 25 of its 28 games in September and October against AL West rivals.

The Astros are also off Thursday, then open a four-game series Friday at Oakland, followed by three more on the road against the Angels. Houston has the best road record in the majors at 44-22.
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