It might have been the worst game in Astros World Series history, but it’s not the worst in Astros playoff history.
Yes, the Astros were totally dominated yesterday, taking a 7-0 shellacking from the Phillies.
But do you remember last year’s ALCS Game 3? It also set the Astros down 2-1 in the Series after a 12-3 loss. Last night’s hero (if you can say that), Jose Urquidy, was the villain in that game, allowing six runs in 1.2 innings. The Astros came back to win the next three games dominantly, similar to the way they lost Game 3 of both the 2021 ALCS and the 2022 World Series.
So do not surrender hope, ye Astros fans.
The goat last night (not GOAT) was Lance McCullers. I don’t recall the last time an Astros pitcher gave up five home runs in any game, and if I’m not mistaken, Lance McCullers is the first pitcher in World Series history to do so.
Of course, Dusty Baker is being criticized for staying too long with his struggling starter, just as he was in Game 1 with Justin Verlander. That’s certainly a reasonable argument. On the other hand, before the two homers in the fifth, McCullers had two very good innings before. There is a cost to using your bullpen too much so early in the Series, and I’m sure Dusty was considering that. Hindsight is 20-20.
In the game thread, I complained that Lance had no bite on his breaking balls. So today, I checked it out using Brooksbaseball.com. I was wrong.
Without boring you with lots of numbers, suffice it to say that McCullers’ pitches had about the same break and velocity as they always do. His curve lost about .6 inches of vertical drop, the biggest difference I could find, which is not very significant, especially since the curve was about one MPH faster than usual, as was his sinker.
To some degree, home runs are random events. The difference between a fly to the warning track or just foul homer, like the two Kyle Schwarber just missed on Rafael Montero Saturday night, and homers that clear the fence is a microscopic difference in timing so minute it would be almost impossible to measure.
That’s why xFIP is a more reliable measure than FIP of pitching efficiency because xFIP averages out the frequency of homers.
I’m not making excuses for Lance. Something was wrong last night, and my research lends credence to the tipping pitches theory.
Which leads to my next question: Should Verlander and/or McCullers start again?
Obviously, they have fantastic track records, especially Verlander, who will go down in History as an all-time great regardless of what he does tomorrow. The problem with sitting such a luminary is obvious. Can you imagine the clamor and noise in the sports media world with the announcement by Dusty Baker that Justin Verlander will not start again in the World Series? What disrespect.
The combined ERAs of Verlander and McCullers in their two games this Series is 11.57. The combined ERAs for every other Astros pitcher who has appeared in the Series is 0.84.
Of course, this is an extremely short sample size, which is the reason you go with the horse with the longest winning track record.
But all players, even Hall of Famers, have slumps. In a 162-game season, you let players work their way out of slumps. In a seven-game series, you may not have that luxury. Verlander has admitted on national TV that he is working out his mechanics. And McCullers is in denial that there even is a problem. At least no one seems to know what it is unless it’s tipping, which McCullers denies.
If these two guys pitch the way they have (neither was very sharp against the befuddled Yankees, either, and Verlander was equally bad against the Mariners), then the Astros lose the World Series.
On the other hand, Luis Garcia has six innings this post-season, allowing only one run, and Urquidy faced the entire lineup that crushed McCullers last night and allowed only one hit and one walk.
Yes, short sample.
Too bad Javier didn’t pitch last night. He would have still lost, but at least the team would not have been humiliated, and he’d be available for Game Seven. BTW. Javier had the fourth-best ERA in baseball among pitchers with 50+ innings in the second half of the season at 1.60. Why was McCullers, still finding his way back from injury, more qualified than Javier? Who was far more effective against the Yankees? The decision to favor McCullers over Javier seems like the real Dusty managing error to me.
Javier will prove me right or wrong tonight, 7:03 CT.
Game 4: Wednesday, November 2nd @ 7:03 PM CDT
Location: Citizens Bank Park - Philadelphia, PA
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, TUDN 93.3/KLAT 1010, ESPN Radio / Phillies - 94 WIP, WTTM 1680, ESPN Radio