|Morton, healing Astros host Mariners|
HOUSTON -- With shortstop Carlos Correa reinstated from the 10-day disabled list and back from a lengthy hiatus, the Astros caught their first glimpse of improving health on the horizon.
Correa finished 0-for-3 with a walk in the Astros' 5-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Friday, his first game action since June 25. The Astros (73-44) remain optimistic that several additional regulars are nearing a return from the DL, with catcher Brian McCann (right knee surgery) progressing well.
McCann, who last played on June 30, appears closer to seeing live pitching relative to working behind the plate, meaning the club will have to make a decision on his ensuing step in rehab. Initially slated to be sidelined until September, McCann could beat that projection by a few days.
The Astros are also eyeing returns from outfielder George Springer (left thumb), second baseman Jose Altuve (right knee), and right-handed reliever Chris Devenski (left hamstring), although Astros manager A.J. Hinch announced that Altuve would not return prior to the completion of the current six-game homestand.
"The rest of this homestand I think will be rather big for us to determine where everybody is," Hinch said. "Where is Springer; can he come back right after his DL (eligible to Aug. 17 at Oakland)? Where is Jose in his progression? Where is McCann in his progression? Devenski threw a bullpen (Thursday), feels good today and will probably throw another one soon.
"We have five days left in this homestand including the off day where we're going to have a clearer picture of what the back half of August will look like as we get towards September."
Right-hander Charlie Morton (12-2, 2.81 ERA) will start for the Astros on Saturday. Morton is 3-2 with a 2.95 ERA in his career against the Mariners, including a 2-0 mark and 1.38 ERA in two starts this season.
Left-hander Wade LeBlanc (6-2, 3.81 ERA) will get the starting nod for Seattle (67-50). In eight career appearances (four starts) against Houston, LeBlanc is 0-1 with a 6.84 ERA. In four appearances (two starts) this season, he is 0-1 with a 10.22 ERA.
Seattle manager Scott Servais stuck with the batting order that yielded success in the opener, giving right fielder Mitch Haniger a second consecutive start hitting leadoff with left fielder Denard Span and shortstop Jean Segura rounding out the top third of the lineup.
On Thursday, that trio combined to finish 10-for-13 with six runs, seven RBIs, and seven extra-base hits. In the Mariners' victory on Friday, they went a combined 4-for-11 with three runs and two RBIs.
Segura had hit second 94 times while Haniger batted third 60 times before moving up in the order.
"Switching the lineup yesterday just lightened things a little bit," Servais said. "Guys are just having fun with it. It's working. We had a little bit more energy here; we're just playing good games.
"The at-bats are better, the whole thing but I can't put my finger on one thing. You knew it was going to turn. We have a good offensive club. When you're down and really don't do much for that long it's a matter of time before it turns. The at-bats have been a lot better and I hope it continues."