Astros place Lance McCullers Jr. on the disabled list, and here's how that might end their bid at history
The Astros are trying to become the second team since 1998 to use just five starters all season
McCullers will hit the DL with a 3.93 ERA and a 2.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Depending on his recovery, the Astros could have to turn to a spot-starter for the first time all season.
Entering Sunday, the Astros were the only team who had yet to use more than five starters. Everyone else had asked at least seven pitchers to take a start. The Astros had not tasked anyone with that assignment outside of their Opening Day starting five: McCullers, Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, and Gerrit Cole. Impressive (and lucky) stuff.
It's at least possible that the Astros could keep that streak intact if McCullers makes a quick recovery. Houston has off days on Aug. 8 and Aug. 13, meaning it could turn to a four-man rotation to get through this stretch. Because the Astros are playing for October, it's more likely they turn to Plan B to ensure McCullers (and everyone else) is hearty and hale.
Who constitutes Plan B? That's unclear. Collin McHugh has thrown 53 innings in 38 appearances, but hasn't topped 40 pitches in more than a month. Meanwhile, the minor-league starters on the 40-man roster (Francis Martes and Brady Rodgers) haven't pitched well enough to merit a promotion. The Astros could turn to Cy Sneed or Trent Thornton. Each would require addition to the 40-man roster.
If the Astros do somehow find a way to avoid using another starter for the rest of the season, they would become the first team since the 2003 Seattle Mariners to pull off the feat. Those Mariners are the only team to do it since the last round of expansion.
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