The Houston Astros have the best pitching staff in baseball. If they continue to pitch the rest of the season the way they have pitched so far, History may judge that they have the best pitching staff of all-time.
But in the last two series on the road they were pretty not so good. Especially atrocious was Lance McCullers.
In his start last Saturday in Cleveland, in 4.1 innings McCullers surrendered 7 runs, 3 home runs and had only 2 strikeouts. His breaking ball wasn’t breaking, and it wasn’t missing bats. It was travelling very far and doing so in a remarkable hurry.
The big question in the back of every Astros fan’s mind tonight was: which Lance was going to show up tonight, the dominant Lance we all know and love, or the sacrifical Lance that seems to sometimes possess the real Lance’s body?
Well, in six innings Lance surrendered only two runs on 4 hits. The vertical break on his curve, so lacking last Saturday, was back to normal, and if a 9% whiff rate and only 4 strikeouts isn’t the kind of domination we’ve sometimes seen from McCullers, tonight he got the job done against one of the best lineups in baseball.
Meanwhile the Astros had enough offensive punch against the AL leading Red Sox to give McCullers his 7th win against 3 losses. Carlos Correa put the kabosh on his nasty slump, hitting a 2 run dinger, his ninth, to the Crawford Boxes to give the Stros an early 2 run lead.
The Astros would add two more runs in the fourth with a little long ball/small ball combo meal. Just recalled from AAA for the injured Brian McCann, catcher Tim Federowicz doubled to deep right center, sending J. D. Davis to third base. Tony Kemp got a swinging bunt single which scored Davis on a razor close play at the plate. Jake Marisnick then bunted Federowicz home on an RBI fielder’s choice.
That would be all the runs the Astros would get this night, and all they would need.
The Red Sox would score their only 2 runs in the third on a Xander Bogaerts double to deep left center field. On the relay throw home Carlos Correa missed an assist against the runner by a hair, on a throw clocked at 96 MPH, the fastest throw ever recorded by an infielder on statcast.
After blowing two multi-run ninth inning leads on the previous road trip, the bullpen, like McCullers, achieved a measure of redemption tonight, with Will Harris, Hector Rondon,and Ken Giles holding the Red Sox scoreless for the final three innings. For Ken Giles, who came into the Sunday game in Cleveland with a 5 run lead and gave up three baserunners, a game the Astros would lose in 14 innings, it was particularly gratifying to earn his 10th save of the year.
After the previous road trip, with its unexpected pitching failures, tonight the Astros staff allowed an opponent 2 runs. We can now say, once again, all is right with the world.
Drew Pomeranz was the losing pitcher, and is now 1-3. Lance McCullers is now tied for the team lead in wins with 7 against 3 losses.
Box Score and videos here.