Jinxes must be real after all.
With just about every national sports publication raving about the Astros pitching staff, each spinning the story in their own way that after 50 games the Astros hurlers are THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME, something bad was bound to happen.
The bad thing? The disappearing Lance McCullers curve ball. Disappearing, as in “is it a curve ball if it doesn’t actually curve.” Or disappearing as in “where did that ball go?”
The answer to that second question all too often tonight was: very far, and at a very high rate of speed.
McCullers nearly abandoned his new best friend, the change up, and tonight reverted to his normal reliance on the curve. Only, according to Brooks baseball, they weren’t curving too good, averaging between a 1⁄2 degree to 3/4s of a degree less than the break his curve had last Sunday.
Lance was hanging curves tonight like wall paper.
Out of 93 pitches tonight McCullers threw 47 curves. Only 3 of those resulted in a swing and miss. Twelve were put in play and 4 resulted in hits, two doubles and a home run.
By comparison, in Lance’s dominant one-hit performance last Sunday against these same Indians, Lance threw 39 curves with 6 whiffs, only 5 put in play, none resulting in a hit.
All in all Lance allowed, in 4.1 innings, 17 balls in play, with an average velocity of 90.75. Last Sunday, in seven innings, he allowed 14 balls in play, with an average velocity of 84.2.
I’m going to get all sabremetric here, not usual for a game recap...but. The linear weighted outcome of McCuller’s curve tonight was 1.30. Last Sunday it was -2.22. (For the pitcher a positive number is bad.) To be fair to Lance’s curve, it must be admitted that his fastball was even worse, rated at 2.16, compared to last Sunday’s .10. Two of the three bombs Lance surrendered were to his fastball.
Lance just couldn’t find anything that worked tonight.
Final line on McCullers, May 26, 2018:
4.1 innings, 6 hits, 7 earned runs. 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, 3 home runs. His earned run average climbed from 3.20 to 3.98.
It’s all those damn pundits’ fault.
The indians scored seven of their eight runs tonight off 4 home runs, one by Yonder Alonzo and another by Jason Kipnis, each 2 run homers in the fourth, and a two run homer by Edwin Encarnacion in the fifth that sent McCullers to the showers. Michael Brantley would add a solo shot off Brad Peacock in the seventh, who struggled with command, walking 2 batters in 1.1 innings, throwing only 18 strikes out of 32 pitches.
But if Astros pitching is starting towards a natural regression, let us take heart in the continued improved output of the offense. The Astros did not retreat quietly into the night. They bravely fought back throughout the game, staying within striking distance until the very end.
Especially notable was Jose Altuve’s 4-4 night. Just when I began to doubt my favorite MVP, he came up with a two run home run, a triple, two singles, two stolen bases, 2 RBI and 3 runs scored. In the last two nights he’s 6-9 with 5 runs and 4 RBI. You can’t keep a good man down.
Carlos Correa was 2-3 with a double and 2 RBI. And our other mighty mite, Tony Kemp, had his first home run of the season, a two run shot in the sixth that brought the Astros to within two runs. Altuve would score the last Astros run in the seventh after his triple but, alas, it would not be enough.
As of this writing the Astros are 2.5 games ahead of the Seattle Mariners in first place in the AL West. They play the final game of the four game series with the Indians today at 12:10 CDT in Cleveland.
Gerrit Cole (5-1, 1.86 ERA) goes against Tyler Bauer (4-3, 2.35 ERA) in a battle between the good guy from UCLA against the other one.
Box score and videos here.