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TOR@HOU: Keuchel blanks Blue Jays over seven innings

Mariners left-hander Joe Saunders is ready to prove that he's a lot better than his recent results show.

Saunders will face the Astros for the fourth time this season, and he'll square off against left-hander Dallas Keuchel on Saturday.

Saunders, 32, is 1-5 with a 7.71 ERA in his last seven starts, including a loss to Texas on Monday when he allowed seven runs on nine hits with three walks and no strikeouts over seven innings.

Trailing 4-3 in the seventh inning, he gave up a three-run homer to A.J. Pierzynski after intentionally walking Adrian Beltre.

"It was a good pitch to A.J., but he's kind of a guess hitter and he guessed right and put a good swing on a good pitch," Saunders said. "It was one of those weird nights where I thought I pitched better than the results. I've just been having some bad luck. You just have to keep your head up, keep pushing forward, keep working hard and just trust that things are going to turn around."

Keuchel, a 25-year-old lefty, pitched out of the bullpen for the first month-and-a-half of the season before moving to the rotation on May 10.

In his last start on Sunday, Keuchel pitched seven scoreless innings against the Blue Jays and allowed just four hits with three walks and two strikeouts.

Keuchel hasn't won since July 27, but he's left five of his last seven starts winning or tied.

"My main goal was not to look up at the clock," Keuchel said. "I try to go as fast as possible and give our team a chance to hit, but he was matching me pitch for pitch and it was actually pretty fun."

Keuchel is 5-7 with a 4.82 ERA, and the Astros are 7-10 in his 17 starts.

Mariners: Gutierrez expected to return on Saturday
After going 3-for-4 with a double and a two-run homer on Thursday, outfielder Franklin Gutierrez got the day off on Friday. According to manager Eric Wedge, he will return on Saturday.

Gutierrez has played in three of five games since returning from the disabled list following a season-long battle with hamstring issues. He homered in each of his last two games, and he has seven this season in just 73 at-bats.

"We talked to Franklin after the game last night," Wedge said. "We weren't going to be able to play him four in a row, of course. We have to be careful with him and keep him healthy. Obviously you see what he means to us when he's in there. I wanted to get him in there against the two left-handers coming up the next two days."

Rookie Abraham Almonte started in right field in his Major League debut. He was recalled following a waiver trade that sent outfielder Michael Morse to the Orioles earlier in the day, and he went 1-for-5 with two RBIs.

Michael Saunders was also out of the lineup on Friday, but Wedge said he has recovered from a neck issue that sidelined him a few days last week.

"Yeah, he's in a good place," Wedge said. "But we've got a lot of people we want to play right now, so somebody is going to get left out on a daily basis. We'll just try to continue to mix and match that."

Astros: Planning to limit callups with Minor League playoffs
The Astros have at least five farm teams headed to the playoffs, which means they'll be limiting their roster expansion on Sept. 1.

Triple-A Oklahoma City has an 80-61 record with a playoff spot already wrapped up, so manager Bo Porter said the Astros would rather not disrupt their roster.

"They've played so well all year and put themselves in position to have this opportunity to win a championship," Porter said. "From an organization standpoint we are going to call up a few guys, but we are going to be cognizant to make sure they have the pieces to compete for a championship, because they've done a great job all year. We're not going to strip their team down at this juncture because we have the opportunity to call people up in September."

Worth noting
• The Mariners went 5-for-13 with runners in scoring position on Friday after going 2-for-17 in their last three games.

• Astros outfielder L.J. Hoes has hit in 12 of his last 16 games with a .328 average (21-for-64).

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