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McCullers Leads Combined Shutout in Return to Action

Lance McCullers held the Athletics to no runs over six innings in his return start.

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

Lance McCullers Jr. made his first start at the major league level in exactly 10 months on Saturday night, leading the Astros to an 8-0 victory.

The layoff, due to a right forearm strain suffered during the 2021 ALDS, took that long to rehab. The rest seems to have done him pretty good. Over a six-inning start, he surrendered no runs on two hits and four walks, striking out five Athletics and getting 47-of-81 offerings over the plate.

After McCullers got through the top of the first without any problems, Alex Bregman ensured that the pressure would be off the 28-year-old right-hander with a two-run homer, his 15th of the season. The homer, traveled 408 feet and was clocked off the bat at 105 MPH.

In the A’s half of the third, the Astros got a double play in strike-em-out, throw-em-out fashion behind the arm of Martín Maldonado.

In the fourth inning, Trey Mancini and Jeremy Peña worked some two-out magic with back-to-back singles, putting runners on the corners for Chas McCormick. Chas came through with a two-run triple that was clocked at 108.6 MPH.

Despite the trouble, the A’s continued to rely on starting pitcher Zach Logue. Ultimately, Logue gave up another pair of runs in the sixth inning on RBI doubles from Mancini and Peña. Logue ended up allowing six runs, all earned, on eight hits and a pair of walks. He struck out two, and put 68-of-107 pitches over the plate.

Kyle Tucker added a two-run triple in the seventh inning to set Houston’s lead at 8-0. He also stole his team-leading 17th base of the season (against only two CS), and currently leads the majors with 17 DRS as an outfielder.

  • Phil Maton allowed two hits in his inning of work, but also struck out two and didn’t allow any runs.
  • Mancini led Houston’s offense with three hits, while Peña, Yuli Gurriel, and Yordan Alvarez collected two each.
  • On the subject of Alvarez, can we please address the fact that he has reduced his whiff rate from 24 percent to 19 against last year’s numbers, while increasing his walk rate from eight to 14? He’s leading the American League with a .402 OBP.
  • Terry Puhl and front office exec Tal Smith were inducted into the Astros Hall of Fame prior to the game. They join 22 other players already in. That’s almost enough for a team.....and seems like a pretty good story idea. Stay tuned for that.
  • Bryan Abreu pitched two scoreless innings to close it out in a non-save situation. He allowed one single and struck out one batter.
  • Box Score

So, McCullers comes back and does this. It hardly seems fair, this embarrassment of riches. Earlier this season with Justin Verlander, and now this. I’ve heard some complaints about Michael Brantley being injured, to the tune of, “Well, we should have traded for another outfielder before the deadline.” The thing is, though, injuries happen, and sometimes, these guys come back better than ever. McCullers is the flip side of the Brantley coin, and these Astros just seem ready to take on all challengers. I’m all for “next man up,” and despite missing out on a few draft picks last year, Houston’s farm is pretty ripe with several that we’ll be seeing in about two weeks.

And while I’m on the soapbox that Crawfish Boxes has blessed me with, enough with the Dusty Baker bashing. I heard a quote once, and I can’t find the source, that a baseball manager is the “most useless piece of furniture,” and it’s really true. How much is a manager worth in terms of wins and losses over 162 games? Very little, maybe one or two wins or losses (which will have no bearing on the Astros this season, btw). I don’t have the empirical data to back this up, but I think the very best managers are only like five percent better than the very worst. That’s just my $.02. Imma hop off this soapbox now.

The shutout was Houston’s 12th of the season, and the Astros are now 8-6 against Oakland with five games remaining in the season-series. They’ll close out their current three-game set with a 1:10PM start time, tomorrow. Thanks for reading.