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World Series - Houston Astros v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Three

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Astros Crawfish Boil: February 8, 2024

Welcome to the Thursday Boil, including chapter 95 of Everystros.

Lance McCullers
| Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

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Houston Astros News

‘Houston is my home’: Altuve, Astros cement lifelong partnership

Jose Altuve discusses contract extension with Astros

Who should Astros extend next?

Jose Altuve’s contract clearly designed to help Astros pay Kyle Tucker (CTH)

Alex Bregman Will ‘Definitely’ Get Astros Contract Offer After Altuve Deal, per Owner (Bleacher Report)

Astros Owner Shares Direct Statement On Team’s Title Window (The Cold Wire)

AL West News

A’s — Kawakami: The A’s wobbly Las Vegas future and the signs of another John Fisher failure (The Athletic)

M’s — Mariners claim Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s brother from Pirates (ClutchPoints)

Blarts — Why Fangraphs’ lowly Rangers win total projection bodes well for Texas and its fans (newswest9)

Halos — Angels interested in reunion with this veteran infielder (Yardbarker)

MLB News

It’s never too early to pick MVP favorites ... and dark horses

The tragic story of a forgotten Negro Leagues phenom

6-time All-Star slugger may be in Mets’ sights tl;dr — Luis Baez

Satchel Paige’s legendary talent hard to fathom

Brewers bulk up at backstop with Sánchez deal

Predicting each team’s top prospect in 2026

Top 100 Players Right Now: Nos. 61-80 unveiled — 62. Justin Verlander

Houston Astros Birthdays

None

Everystros XCV

60. Lance McCullers Jr. (Bagwell score 43.37) is a six-foot-one right-handed pitcher from Tampa, FL. Born on October 2, 1993, he was a 2012 draft pick of the Houston Astros, in the first round out of Jesuit High School. Forty-two players from the round got to the majors, led by Carlos Correa (40.9 bWAR). Thirty players taken with the 41st pick reached the bigs, led by Fred Lynn (50.2 bWAR).

McCullers has pitched 718 23 innings for Houston between his debut in 2015 and now, but he missed the entire 2019 season and the entire 2023 season recovering from injury. In fact, the only season in which he’s stayed mostly healthy is 2021, when he was 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA in 28 starts.

Regardless of McCullers lack of durability, when he’s healthy, few starters are better at getting batters to miss. In the aforementioned 2021 campaign, he held opponents to 6.8 H/9 and 0.7 HR/9 leading the American League in both categories, also earning some down-ballot Cy Young consideration (he finished seventh). Overall, he’s walked 296 and struck out 800 (10.0 K/9, 2.7 K/W). His opponents have been kept to a 1.251 WHIP and a .226/.311/.358 slashline. He’s reporting to camp this season.

Since getting to the majors, 13 of McCullers 127 starts have been “signature starts®.” That is, a pitcher starting a game then lasting at least six innings, achieving a GameScore of 70 or better, and also earning a .300 WPA in said start. His first such was on June 3, 2015, when he struck out 11 Orioles and pitched a four-hitter in a 3-1 win over Baltimore.

On July 4, 2016, McCullers collected 10 strikeouts in seven innings, allowing one run on five hits in a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners. On July 22, he again collected 10 strikeouts, pitching eight innings of one-run, four-hit ball in a 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Angels.

On April 20, 2017, McCullers pitched 6 23 shutout innings, letting the Angels collect three hits and striking out eight to defeat them, 2-1. On May 6, he pitched seven innings and gave up only an unearned run on two hits, striking out four in a 2-1 hard-luck loss to the Halos. In his next turn, on May 12, he struck out seven and allowed the Mets four hits over six frames in a 5-1 triumph versus New York. For his efforts that season, he was selected to the AL All-Star Team, his first and thus-far only such selection.

On April 17, 2018, McCullers was perfect over seven innings — save a walk and a solo home run — while striking out 11 in a 4-1 win against Seattle. On May 20, he struck out eight and kept the Indians to one hit and a pair of walks over seven innings, defeating Cleveland 3-1. On June 28, he held the Rays to three hits and two walks but no runs over seven, striking out as many in a 1-0 win against Tampa Bay. On July 6, he struck out a dozen and allowed the White Sox one run on three hits and no walks, as the Astros defeated Chicago, 11-4.

On September 16, 2020, McCullers held the Rangers to two hits and zero walks for zero runs, striking out eight in a 1-0 loss to Texas.

On May 11, 2021, McCullers struck out nine over eight innings of three-hit ball, holding the Angels to one run in a 5-1 Houston win against the Ohtani’s. On August 3, he held the other Los Angeles team, the Dodgers, scoreless on four hits, striking out nine in 6 23 innings in a 3-0 Houston victory.

McCullers only such start in 2022 came in the postseason, in the ALDS Game Three 1-0, 18-inning victory over the Mariners. McCullers kept the M’s to two hits and two walks, striking out seven, in an eight-pitcher, 18-inning shutout.

That’s all of McCullers “signature starts®” so far. Here’s to hoping he can tack on another dozen or so in 2024.

59. Derek Bell (Bagwell score 45.35) is a six-foot-two right-handed outfielder, also from Tampa, FL. Born on December 11, 1968, Bell was a second-round choice of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1987 out of C. Leon King High School. Out of the 19 to make the bigs out of the round, Bell ranks third with 13.1 bWAR, behind only Albert Belle (40.1 bWAR) and Dave Burba (16.5 bWAR). Of the 26 then-future major leaguers chosen 49th overall, Bell ranks fourth, behind Carlos Beltran (70.1 bWAR), Carney Lansford (40.4 bWAR), and Jeff Suppan (17.1 bWAR).

Bell reached the majors with the Jays in 1991 (79 games, .228/.323/.645, two home runs, 16 RBI), playing parts of two seasons north of the border. He then spent two seasons playing with the San Diego Padres (258 games, .284/.325/.433, 35 home runs, 126 RBI). On December 28, 1994, the Friars traded him to the Astros with Doug Brocail, Pedro Martínez, Ricky Gutiérrez, Craig Shipley, and Phil Plantier for Roberto Petagine, Steve Finley, Andújar Cedeño, Ken Caminiti, and Brian Williams.

Bell played in 683 games for Houston over five seasons, starting 594 games in right field (5307 13 innings, .973), 65 games in centerfield (581 23 innings, .993), and one at designated hitter. As a hitter, he slashed .284/.341/.430, going 770-for-2711 with 153 doubles, 10 triples, 74 home runs, and 102 stolen bases in 130 attempts. He drew 214 walks and struck out 543, scoring 386 times and driving in 444 runs.

On May 23, 1995, Bell hit three singles and two doubles with two runs scored and two driven in, in a 10-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. On June 23, he singled in the first, singled and scored the game-tying run in the ninth, singled in the 11th, and drove home the walk-off game-winner with a 12th-inning RBI-single. On July 2, he hit a single, a double, and a home run with three runs scored and three RBI in a. 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. On July 15, he hit four singles with two runs and three RBI in a 15-9 victory versus the San Francisco Giants. On July 20, he hit a first-inning go-ahead three-run homer, a second-inning two-run single, and a seventh-inning RBI-sacrifice fly for six RBI in total, as Houston topped the Giants, 11-4. On August 4, in the second game of a twin-bill, he hit a first-inning RBI-double, a third-inning game-tying RBI-single, and a sixth-inning lead-off go-ahead home run in a 5-4 win against the Bucs. On August 29, in his final game of the season he hit two singles, a double, and a homer for three RBI in an 11-9 win against the Atlanta Braves.

On April 2, 1996, Bell hit a game-tying RBI-double in the third, a leadoff double and a run scored in the eighth, and a walk-off RBI-single in the bottom of the ninth for a 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. On April 12, he hit a single in the top of the seventh, then hit a go-ahead three-run 10th-inning triple in a 10-8 win over the Reds. On April 19, he hit three singles and a double with three RBI in a 13-5 win over the Reds. Two days later, he hit an RBI-sacrifice fly in the first inning, then hit a three-run go-ahead homer in the eighth inning as Houston topped Cincinnati, 7-5. On May 9, he hit four singles in an 11-4 win over the Montreal Expos. On June 16, he hit a double and three singles with three RBI in an 8-7 loss to the Giants. On July 20, he hit an RBI-groundout in the first inning, adding a stolen base, then hit a walk-off RBI-single in the bottom of the ninth for a 2-1 win over the Braves. Six days later, he singled in the sixth, then hit a game-tying RBI-double in the eighth inning to defeat the Dodgers, 4-3. On August 22, he hit a pair of solo home runs in an 8-6 win over the Bucs. On September 26, he hit a first-inning single, reached on an error and stole a base in the fourth, then hit a two-run seventh-inning go-ahead single in a 6-2 win over the Mets.

On April 16, 1997, Bell hit a double and three singles with an RBI in a 10-2 win over the Expos. On August 13, he drew a first-inning walk, stole a base and scored, hit a second-inning RBI-single, and a seventh-inning game-tying homer in an 8-6 loss to the Florida Marlins. On August 17, he hit a fourth-inning RBI-double, a two-run fifth-inning go-ahead double, a seventh-inning single with a stolen base and a run, then a single, stolen base and run scored in an 11-6 win against the Philadelphia Phillies. On August 22, he hit two doubles and a triple with four RBI in a 9-1 victory against the Colorado Rockies. The next day, he hit a double and three singles with an RBI in a 6-3 loss to the Rockies.

March 31, 1998, Bell hit three doubles and a single for two RBI in a 13-inning 9-4 loss to the Giants. Four days later, he hit a single, a double, and a home run for six RBI in a 15-2 win over Colorado. On April 22, he hit a third-inning single, a fifth-inning two-run homer, a seventh-inning single and a run, and an eighth-inning single in a 10-7 loss to the Mets. Six days later, he hit four singles in a 4-3, 10-inning win over the Mets. On June 8, he hit a first inning RBI-sacrifice fly, a seventh-inning single, and a ninth-inning, game-tying RBI-double, scoring a run in a 9-5 win against the Detroit Tigers. On June 25, he hit a third-inning single, a fifth-inning single, and a ninth-inning game-tying two-run homer in a 6-5 loss to the Rockies. On August 8, he hit a game-tying seventh-inning solo home run, then hit a ninth-inning single and scored the walk-off run in a 7-6 win over Philadelphia. On August 19, he hit a fourth-inning single and a ninth-inning two-run come-from-behind and go-ahead two-run single to defeat Philadelphia, 4-3 On September 15, he entered as an eighth-inning defensive replacement in the first game of a doubleheader against the Mets. In his third plate appearance, he hit a walk-off leadoff 12th inning home run for a 6-5 victory. In the second half of the doubleheader, he hit a first-inning game-tying RBI-single, and a fifth-inning double and a run in an 8-4 loss to the Mets.

On April 18, 1999, Bell hit a first-inning run-scoring double, a third-inning single, a fifth-inning game-tying RBI-single, and an eighth-inning go-ahead RBI-sacrifice fly in an 8-4 victory over the Cardinals. On June 4, he hit a first-inning double, a seventh-inning single, and an eighth-inning two-run go-ahead double in a 7-6 win against the Minnesota Twins. On June 9, he hit four singles in a 13-4 win against the Chicago White Sox. Four days later, he hit a second-inning single and a sixth-inning go-ahead grand slam in a 4-3 win over the Friars. On July 8, he hit a ninth-inning game-tying RBI-double and an 11th-inning go-ahead RBI-single in an eventual 8-7 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. On July 15, he hit a second-inning single, reached on an error and scored in the sixth, and a seventh-inning two-run go-ahead single to help defeat the Detroit Tigers, 8-6. On July 28, he hit four singles with two runs scored and two RBI in a 16-8 win against Colorado.

On December 23, 1999, the Astros traded Bell with Mike Hampton to the Mets for Kyle Kessel, Roger Cedeño, and Octavio Dotel. Bell played one season for New York (144 games, .266/.348/.425, 18 jacks, 69 RBI), and a season for the Pirates (46 games, .173/.287/.288, five homers, 13 RBI).

58. Gerrit Cole (Bagwell score 83.90) is a six-foot-four right-handed pitcher from Newport Beach, CA. Born on September 8, 1990, he was a first-round choice of the New York Yankees in 2008. Thirty-eight of forty-six players made the majors out of the round, and Cole trails only Buster Posey (44.8 bWAR to Cole’s 41.2). Thirty-nine of fifty-nine made the majors after being taken with the 28th pick, led by Cole and followed chiefly by Lee Smith (28.9 bWAR). Even so, Cole did not sign. Cole joined the Pittsburgh Pirates after they took him with the first choice overall in 2011. 44-of-60 graduated to the major league level out of that round, led by Francisco Lindor (42.7 bWAR). Historically, 53-of-55 first overall picks have reached the bigs, and that’s a group led by some powerful names. I won’t even go into it, but sheesh. Even considering that, Cole is already eighth on that list.

Aaaaanyway, Cole reached the bigs with the Pirates in 2013 and played five seasons with Pittsburgh (59-42, 3.50 ERA, 782 13 IP, 734 K, 2015 All-Star). On January 13, 2018, the Pirates sent Cole to Houston for Michael Feliz, Jason Martin, Colin Moran and Joe Musgrove.

In 2018, Cole went 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA in 32 starts for Houston. He walked 64 and struck out 276 batters in 200 13 innings, leading the majors with 12.4 K/9. He put up a 1.033 WHIP and held opponents to a .198/.269/.332 slashline.

In 2019, Cole topped his previous season by a country mile. Although he made the American League All-Star Team in both campaigns, in 2019 he was 20-5 with an AL-leading 2.50 ERA. In 33 starts, he walked 48 and struck out a major league-high 326 batters, with a ML-high 185 ERA+ and a ML-high 13.8 K/9. He posted a Maddux-prime-like 0.895 WHIP while holding opponents to a .186/.237/.343 slashline.

As far as “signature starts®,” Cole authored nine during his short stay with the Astros. On April 7, 2018, he struck out 11 Padres and allowed no runs on five hits over seven innings, in an eventual 1-0, 10-inning victory over San Diego. On July 9, he struck out another 11 over six frames, holding the A’s scoreless on three hits in an eventual 2-0 loss to Oakland.

On April 30, 2019, Cole pitched seven innings of shutout one-hit ball, whiffing 11 in an 11-0 victory against the Minnesota Twins. On June 30, he kept the Mariners to one run on five hits, with 10 strikeouts in seven innings of a 6-1 victory against Seattle. On July 6, he pitched seven innings and kept Los Angeles scoreless on three hits, striking out nine in a 4-0 victory opposite the Angels. On August 22, he struck out a dozen against two hits and a walk over seven scoreless frames in a 6-3 win against Detroit. On September 13, against the Royals, Cole struck out 11 and gave up an unearned run on four hits and two walks over eight innings of a 4-1 Houston win over Kansas City. In his next turn five days later, he struck out 10 Rangers over eight innings, holding them to two runs on six hits in a 3-2 win over Texas. In his next turn after that, another six days later, he struck out 14 over seven shutout, no walk two-hit innings to defeat the Mariners, 3-0.

Post-script: Cole added another three “signature starts®” in the 2019 postseason. On October 5, he struck out 15 Rays in 7 23 shutout innings, surrendering no runs on four hits and a walk in a 3-1 Game Two ALDS victory. In the deciding Game Five of the same series, he stepped on their neck and didn’t let up, striking out 10 over eight innings, and giving up one run on two hits in a 6-1 Houston victory. In the ALCS Game Three against the New York Yankees, Cole struck out seven over seven shutout innings, although he allowed four hits and five walks, but Houston topped them, 4-1 in that game and in six games overall.........and also in several other recent seasons.

Cole only played two seasons for Houston, but 2019 was probably the best season of his career, even including his 2023 Cy Young Award-winning season, and it’s not close. That’s just my opinion, but don’t ask a Yankees fan. On Halloween, 2019, Cole was granted free agency. He eventually signed with the Bombers to a nine-year, $324 million deal going into the 2020 campaign. Since joining the Evil Empire, Cole has done pretty well for himself (51-23, 3.08 ERA, 664 IP, 816 K). With five years down in his deal, he can elect to opt out of his contract after the 2024 season.

57. Marwin Gonzalez (Bagwell score 50.37) is a six-foot-one switch-hitting shortstop/leftfielder/first baseman/everything else from Puerto Ordaz, VZ. Born on March 14, 1989, he reached the bigs for the first time with Houston in 2012, during the dark years. Along with Jose Altuve, Gonzalez was there from the darkest days to the brightest, playing in 795 games between his debut and 2018. He was 650-for-2466, slashing .264/.318/.419 with 139 doubles, eight triples, 76 home runs and 37 stolen bases in 63 attempts. He also drew 179 walks versus 541 strikeouts, scoring 303 runs and driving in 292. In 30 postseason games, he was 22-for-97 with six doubles, three homers, and 13 RBI.

As a fielder, he started 249 games at shortstop (2243 innings, .970), 62 games at third base (576 23 innings, .948), 65 games at second base (661 23 innings, .989), 11 games at designated hitter, 130 games in left field (1085 13 innings, .990), 115 games at first base (1047 23 innings, .992), 7 13 innings in right field (no errors) and three innings in center field (no errors).

On August 26, 2012, Gonzalez doubled in the sixth then hit a game-tying RBI-double in the ninth, only to have Ike Davis walk off Wilton Lopez in the bottom of the ninth for a 2-1 New York Mets victory over Houston.

On May 26, 2014, Gonzalez collected three singles and a double scoring once and driving one in as Houston topped the Kansas City Royals, 9-2.

On April 24, 2015, Gonzalez entered as a pinch-runner in the eighth inning of a scoreless tie with the A’s, then promptly got thrown out stealing. Lucky for him (and Houston), he hit a two-run 10th-inning double to put Houston on the board in an eventual 5-4, 11-inning win over Oakland. On August 18, he hit a first-inning sacrifice bunt, a third-inning RBI-double, an eighth-inning single, and a 10th-inning walk-off solo home run to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-2. Five days later, he waited until the ninth inning to get a hit, but made it count with a game-tying RBI-single, in a game eventually won in walk-off fashion by Jason Castro in the 10th inning, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Dodgers. More on Castro, Friday.

On June 11, 2016, Gonzalez singled in the fourth, the sixth, and the eighth, crossing the plate with the go-ahead run on a wild pitch by Erasmo Ramirez in an eventual 4-3 win against Tampa Bay. On July 26, he hit a pair of solo home runs in a 6-3 loss to the New York Yankees. On August 11, in the first game of a twin-bill, he collected four singles and two RBI in a 15-7 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

On May 2, 2017, Gonzalez hit a fifth-inning solo home run to close a three-run deficit to two, then added a go-ahead eighth-inning grand slam in an 8-7 win against the Texas Rangers. On July 22, he hit a sixth-inning go-ahead three-run pinch-hit home run against the Orioles, in an 8-4 win over Baltimore. On September 25, he hit three singles and a home run with three RBI in an 11-2 victory over Texas. On October 25, in Game Two of the World Series, he hit a game-tying ninth-inning solo home run, sending the game to extras in a 7-6 win over the Dodgers.

On May 7, 2018, Gonzalez collected five RBI on two singles and a home run in a 16-2 win over the A’s. On July 5, he hit a pinch-single in the ninth inning, then came around to score the walk-off game-winner on a Yuli Gurriel single (more on Yuli Saturday). On August 1, he hit two solo bombs off the Mariners in an 8-3 victory over Seattle. Five days later, he singled in the second, then got Houston on the board in the ninth with a three-run homer, in a 3-1 win over the San Francisco Giants. On August 20, he hit a first-inning solo shot, a third-inning go-ahead two-run double and scored, and singled in the fifth in a 7-4 loss to the M’s. On October 6, in Game Two of the ALDS against Cleveland, he singled in the second, singled in the fourth, hit a two-run go-ahead sixth-inning double to get Houston on the board, then added an eighth-inning single for good measure in a 3-1 win over the Indians.

Houston granted Margo his free agency on October 29, 2018. Gonzalez went on to play for the Twins (167 games, .248/.311/.387, 20 home runs, 77 RBI) and the Boston Red Sox (77 games, .202/.281/.285, two home runs, 20 RBI). On August 27, 2021, Gonzalez returned to the Astros through free agency.

Gonzalez played in 14 regular season games to close out the campaign with Houston. He started twice at third base (25 innings, no errors), twice at first base (14 innings, no errors), twice at second base (18 innings, .833), and twice at designated hitter. At the plate he was six-for-34 with three jacks and eight RBI, with one walk and eight strikeouts to go with five runs. On September 20, he hit a single and a home run for five RBI in a 10-0 win over the Angels. In four postseason plate appearances, he had one hit and two RBI, in Houston’s Game Five 9-5 win over the Atlanta Braves in the World Series.

Leaving once again via free agency following the season, Gonzalez played 2023 with the Bombers (85 games, .185/.255/.321, six home runs, 18 RBI).

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