Astros recall Lance McCullers for Sunday finale against the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw

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Astros right-hander Lance McCullers was optioned to Double-A Corpus Christi on August 3 after failing to make it out of the first inning in a disastrous start against the Rangers. Houston’s braintrust wanted the 21-year-old to take a breather and come back ready to assist in the club’s final push for its first ever American League West title. That push is now on.

McCullers — owner of a cool 3.17 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 79 strikeouts over his first 76 2/3 major league frames — has been recalled from the Double-A level and will start against Clayton Kershaw in Sunday’s series finale against the visiting Dodgers.

Houston got to Zack Greinke on Saturday for a 3-1 victory and Mike Fiers threw a no-hitter on Friday. This is coming together as a statement series for the ‘Stros here in late August.

As of Sunday morning, they hold a four-game lead in the AL West.

In the NL West, the Dodgers’ lead over the Giants is just 1 1/2.

A.J. Hinch: “If it was any other time of the year, [José Altuve] wouldn’t be in the lineup.”

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It has been evident throughout the playoffs that Astros second baseman José Altuve’s right knee is bothering him. Altuve battled a right knee issue in July, then banged it up again in Game 2 of the ALDS and it’s been a problem ever since.

Manager A.J. Hinch said that if it were the regular season, he wouldn’t put Altuve in the lineup. Per MLB.com’s Richard Justice, the full quote:

He’s hurt. And if it was any other time of the year, he wouldn’t be in the lineup or wouldn’t be playing. He’d probably be on the DL. … But he’s showing up every day in good spirits, ready to go, giving 100 percent of what he’s got. He should be commended.

Hinch also said of Altuve, “His teammates revere him. The production that he’s doing on one leg is pretty incredible. And he’s trying not to talk about it. And therefore I am.”

During the ALCS, Altuve has hit .250/.368/.313 in 16 at-bats. He has just one extra-base hit but he has racked up three singles and drawn three walks while scoring four runs. Hinch has had Marwin González start at second base Games 3 and 4 and is doing so again on Thursday night in Game 5.