Correa-less Astros eye series win vs. Mariners (Jul 19, 2017)

BY AP • July 19, 2017

HOUSTON -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch left Minute Maid Park late Monday night with an uneasy feeling after All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa departed in the fourth inning with what was initially diagnosed as a jammed left thumb.

As it turned out, Hinch had cause for concern.

Correa will miss six to eight weeks after an MRI revealed a torn ligament in his thumb. He will undergo surgery in the coming days, and the Astros hope he will return in September. This is the first disabled list stint for the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year.

First-place Houston (63-31) soldiers on without Correa as it hosts the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday in the rubber match of a three-game series.

Without Correa, who ranked second in the AL in RBIs (67) and multi-hit games (33), third in WAR (4.8) and fifth in batting (.320), OPS (.966) and runs (64), Hinch will have to shuffle his infield.

Super utility man Marwin Gonzalez will split reps at shortstop with third baseman Alex Bregman. First baseman Yuli Gurriel will now see some time at third. Colin Moran, recalled from Triple-A Fresno, will split his time between the corner infield positions.

"It's a reality in our sport. Things are going to happen, but it's a tough blow," Hinch said of Correa getting hurt. "He's a big presence in our lineup, on our team. To see someone go down like that is tough for everybody. We'll absorb it, we'll have the next man up continue to play.

"We'll get (Correa) better, welcome him back sometime in September and move on. But it's no doubt that it's a punch in the gut when one of your best players is down for a while."

Right-hander Charlie Morton (7-3, 4.06 ERA) will start Wednesday for the Astros. Morton has faced the Mariners twice in his career, both coming this season. He is 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA vs. Seattle, having allowed five runs on 12 hits and four walks with 10 strikeouts in 11 innings.

Left-hander James Paxton (8-3, 3.19 ERA) takes the ball for the Mariners (47-48). Paxton is 2-2 with a 3.16 ERA over six career starts against the Astros, with 36 strikeouts against eight walks over 37 innings. He has not allowed a run to the Astros over two starts and 13 innings this season, going 1-0 with 13 strikeouts and three walks. Paxton is 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA in three career starts at Minute Maid Park.

Behind Paxton, veteran right-hander Yovani Gallardo could serve as a wild card in the Seattle bullpen. Gallardo, acquired via trade from the Baltimore Orioles on Jan. 6, lost his spot in the rotation after posting a 3-7 record with a 6.30 ERA, 1.57 WHIP and .820 OPS allowed over 14 starts.

Gallardo has been solid as a reliever. He is 1-0 with a 0.79 ERA over four relief appearances, allowing a .469 OPS with a 0.88 WHIP. The Mariners have been hamstrung by injuries to their rotation. If Gallardo continues to provide bullpen stability, Seattle will be better because of it.

"He's very calm out there," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He doesn't get too excited, and that's from his starting-pitching background. It's a little different obviously; you don't have time to wiggle your way through things and get settled in. You need to be on top of it.

"He has not backed off for a second knowing that eventually we're going to need him to step up in some spots, and he has. He's thrown the ball really good out of the bullpen."

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