So, Jeremy Guthrie was July’s top pitching acquisition

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So far among AL starters anyway.

Jeremy Guthrie couldn’t solve Coors Field, but he appears to have found his comfort zone in Kansas City. The veteran right-hander backed up his eight shutout-inning performance against the White Sox last week with seven more scoreless innings Tuesday in a victory over the A’s.

Guthrie allowed just three hits and struck out eight tonight. He lost his first three starts as a member of the Royals, but he’s now sporting a 4.02 ERA and a 26/7 K/BB ratio in 31 1/3 innings for the club. That puts him ahead of July’s more hyped American League pitching imports:

Zack Greinke (LAA) – 1-1 with a 5.54 ERA in four starts
Ryan Dempster (Tex) – 1-1 with an 8.31 ERA in three starts
Francisco Liriano (ChW) – 0-0 with a 5.65 ERA in three starts
Anibal Sanchez (Det) – 1-3 with a 7.97 ERA in four starts

And all Guthrie cost the Royals was a soon-to-be released Jonathan Sanchez.

Given that Guthrie is eligible for free agency at season’s end, one wonders if the Royals will try offering him an extension before much longer. He was perfectly solid for the Orioles before washing out in Coors Field, so it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to offer him $12 million for two years and see if he bites.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.