Houston right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. looked the part of a budding ace on Tuesday.
He logged a season-high eight innings and matched his season high with nine strikeouts while recording the win in the host Astros’ 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
The triumph enabled the Astros to square the three-game series and helped McCullers snap a seven-start winless streak against an American League West rival entering Wednesday game.
“It was a big game,” McCullers said. “We’re floating right above .500. It’s an in-division opponent. So it’s really more about getting wins against division opponents.”
Right-hander Jose Urquidy (3-2, 3.51 ERA) will start the series finale for the Astros. He worked a career-high seven innings in his previous start, allowing two runs on four hits and one walk with two strikeouts in a 10-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays last Friday.
It marked the third consecutive quality start for Urquidy, who owns a 1.80 ERA during the streak. Urquidy will face the Angels for the first time this season. He is 1-0 with a 4.80 ERA in four games (three starts) against the Angels in his career.
Left-hander Andrew Heaney (1-2, 4.11 ERA) will get the starting nod for the Angels. He didn’t factor into the decision in his most recent start last Thursday despite tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Tampa Bay Rays, allowing four hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts in an 8-3 loss.
It marked his second 10-plus strikeout game this season, with the first coming on the road against the Astros on April 23, when he allowed one run on two hits with 10 strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings in a 5-4 loss. Heaney is 3-3 with a 3.07 ERA over 10 career starts against Houston.
Meanwhile, Angels manager Joe Maddon was raving about the performance of starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani’s on Tuesday. He posted season highs in innings (seven) and strikeouts (10) while issuing one walk after averaging more than a walk per inning in his first four starts this season.
“Spectacular, right?” Maddon said. “To see Shohei find fastball command, that’s what it’s going to look like most of the time. He looked spectacular. He was not overwrought with sliders and spitters. He challenged with fastballs. I think his full complements of talent were on display.”
Maddon inserted Ohtani in right field following his removal from the mound, marking his first appearance in right in his career. Ohtani was due to bat second in the ninth inning, facilitating the decision to keep his bat in the lineup. How Maddon manages these situations remains fluid.
“That was the perfect storm,” Maddon said. “Basically where he was coming up in the batting order (after) pitching seven innings — it was all there. It couldn’t have worked out any better other than the outcome.
“That’s something that I focused on about the sixth inning when I thought he could go seven and I was looking at the batting order and thought he could get one more at-bat, and he was amenable to it.”
–Field Level Media