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Yovani Gallardo might have pitched himself out of a starting role

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Mariners’ right-hander Yovani Gallardo could get booted from the rotation this week, according to comments made by club manager Scott Servais on Sunday. Gallardo labored through his start against the Athletics on Saturday, expending 80 pitches in three innings and allowing two runs on five hits and two walks before getting lifted for Casey Lawrence in the fourth.

The Mariners aren’t exactly flush with starting pitchers, which makes the decision to remove Gallardo from the rotation a bit of a head-scratcher. Felix Hernandez and James Paxton are still laid up on the disabled list and likely won’t return to the mound until mid-September, while the rest of Seattle’s rotation currently ranks second-to-last in the league with a collective 5.03 ERA and 0.9 fWAR over the second half.

Pitching woes and injuries aside, however, the club entered Sunday’s series finale just 3.5 games back of a wild card spot and has a legitimate opportunity to vault over the other three AL contenders and make the postseason this year. In a non-contending season, maybe Servais would give Gallardo and his 5.79 ERA a longer leash, and maybe he wouldn’t. With the playoffs looming and a six-game stretch against the Astros and Angels fast approaching, that’s a risk the team can’t afford to take right now.

Without Gallardo, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News-Tribune speculates that left-hander Marco Gonzales could get the nod for a spot start against the Angels next weekend. Gonzales was officially ousted from the rotation on Friday to make room for Mike Leake, and his 6.20 ERA and 5.4 SO/9 haven’t inspired much confidence during a handful of outings with the team. Like Gallardo, though, Gonzales’ performance on Saturday may have done something to change the Mariners’ minds. He crafted four scoreless innings in relief, punching out five of 13 batters and allowing just two hits as the offense rallied for a late win.

No matter which pitcher the Mariners decide on, they’re already pushing toward a record-breaking number of pitchers used in a single season, with 39. It’ll take more than one successful spot start to improve their standing in the wild card race and much more than that to propel them beyond the first couple rounds of the playoffs.

Astros extend winning streak to 11 games

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The Astros rallied late to keep their winning streak alive, extending it to 11 games with a 7-4 victory over the Royals on Sunday afternoon. The club is now 48-25, leading the Mariners by a full game in the AL West.

The Royals took a 4-2 lead after three innings, but Brian McCann knocked in a run with a single in the top of the fourth to cut the deficit to one run. Carlos Correa hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth. The Astros kept their foot on the gas, scoring two more runs on RBI singles from Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez in the top of the eighth and another in the top of the ninth on Correa’s sacrifice fly.

Starter Lance McCullers allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over six innings. Tony Sipp worked a scoreless seventh. Ken Giles did the same in the eighth. Hector Rondon finished off the win in the ninth, working around a one-out walk with a game-ending double play.

After winning all 10 games on their road trip against the Rangers, Athletics, and Royals, the Astros will head home for a nine-game homestand against the Rays, Royals, and Blue Jays. Each club is below .500.