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Astros tab Lance McCullers for Game 3, Charlie Morton for Game 4

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The Astros have the rest of their rotation set through the first four games of the World Series. Right-hander Lance McCullers will take on Yu Darvish in Game 3 when the series moves to Houston and fellow righty Charlie Morton will kick off Game 4. The Dodgers have yet to officially confirm their rotation beyond Game 3, though Alex Wood is presumably in line for Saturday’s gig.

McCullers, 23, has made just one start so far this postseason. He looked solid on the mound, holding the Yankees to just one run in six innings during Game 4 of the ALCS, but was done in by a shaky performance from the bullpen that allowed New York to take a 6-4 lead for the win. In relief, however, McCullers has been even better. He dismantled any chance the Yankees had of reclaiming the pennant in Game 7, firing 24 straight curveballs en route to a four-inning save.

Morton, 33, was in the driver’s seat for the Astros’ last must-win playoff game. He staved off a Game 7 loss in the ALCS with five innings of two-hit, five-strikeout ball, combining with McCullers for a three-hit shutout to eliminate the Yankees. He boasts a sterling postseason record at home, with just two runs allowed in 9 1/3 innings, but hasn’t been so hot on the road. He was shelled in Game 3 of the ALCS, scattering seven runs on six hits and two walks before he was forced off the mound in the fourth inning. Thankfully for the Astros, that will likely be Morton’s last appearance outside of Minute Maid Park this fall.

Should the rotation extend past four games, as the Astros hope it will, they’ll send Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander and McCullers out for Games 5 through 7. Right now, though, they just have to split the series on the road. Verlander will be on the hill tonight against Dodgers’ lefty Rich Hill at 8:00 PM ET.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.

I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.

Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.

Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?