Do you smell that? It smells like a possible four-game sweep! Today, the Astros defeated the Athletics 9-1 for the third day in a row to begin the season 3-0 for the first time since —guess what?— 2017! A good first start by Lance McCullers Jr. and a three-run bomb from Yordan Álvarez were enough for the ‘Stros.
Right after signing a five year extension, McCullers Jr. did his part in his first outing. Even though he had a difficult first inning in which he struggled with control and made 33 pitches, he figured things out.
The young righty pitched five innings and surrendered just two hits and one earned run. He gave up three bases on balls and struck out seven, including Chad Pinder and Stephen Piscotty twice. Though he dominated, he had his ups and downs during his appearance. He ran his pitch count during the first third of the game: 33 in the first, 12 in the second, 32 in the third. The 27-year-old finished his work at 95 pitches altogether, with 54 strikes.
But McCullers Jr. looked good with his new slider, which he tossed 34 times and accounted for four whiffs, 13 called strikes, and 10 swings and misses. That pitch was his major weapon to put him over the top for the win and overcome his struggles early in the game. The only run he gave up came off of an RBI single by Mitch Moreland in the first inning.
Lance McCullers, Filthy 87mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/yzUYoPqJR9— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 3, 2021
Lance McCullers, 3-2 86mph Freeze Slider. pic.twitter.com/t27xb7BcSq— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 3, 2021
In terms of run production, the Astros were the first team to score, thanks to an RBI single to right field by Kyle Tucker in the first. In the second frame of the game, José Altuve broke the tie with another RBI single to put Houston up by a score of 2-1.
In the top of the fifth inning, Yordan Álvarez turned in the at-bat of the game for the Astros off righty Lou Trivino. He destroyed a ball and launched it over the center-field fence for a three-run home run, his first of the young campaign and sixth lifetime against the Athletics, which is the most he has against any team. It was a 404-foot, 108.6-MPH rocket.
Then, the Astros enjoyed a rally of four runs in the ninth to seal their 13-hit victory, thanks to Chas McCormick’s first MLB hit (an RBI double), Aledmys Díaz’s single, and Tucker’s sac fly.
On Sunday, the Astros will try to complete a four-game sweep against the A’s when they collide with each other again at 3:07 pm (CT). For those who are interested, it’s MLB TV’s Free Game of the Day, so let’s root for our guys everyone!
Things you need to know…
· Michael Brantley left the game after being hit by a 90.2-mph pitch on his right hand, but X-rays were negative and he’s listed as day-to-day.
· Righty Ryne Stanek followed McCullers Jr. with two perfect innings and three punchouts. He has already registered three hitless, scoreless frames and five K’s.
· Left-hander Brooks Raley got a five-out save in a pretty good relief appearance. He killed a possible rally for the Athletics in the 8th with a swinging strikeout to Jed Lowrie and a flyout from Chad Pinder.
· The Astros have 36 hits and 26 runs through their first three games of 2021!