Astros hope for the good McCullers vs. Angels (Apr 20, 2017)
HOUSTON — A.J. Hinch has seen both versions of Lance McCullers this season.
“We’ve seen very vintage Lance,” the Houston Astros’ manager said. “When he’s locked in and pitching ahead, the hitters are very defensive and they don’t have a comfortable at-bat against him. When he’s spraying the ball a little bit, they can pick their poison on what they want to hit … We’ve seen a little bit of everything out of Lance.”
The vintage version of McCullers came in his second start of the year. He gave up three runs on six hits, striking out 10 and walking none in seven innings against Kansas City.
McCullers struck out 10 in four starts last season, three times in July, including once against the Angels. The 23-year-old said the command of his fastball has been better this season and continues to work in the changeup.
The pick-your-poison came in his last start, when he lasted just 4 1/3 innings, surrendering five runs on eight hits in his shortest outing since Aug. 2, 2016.
“Typical day. Sometimes you go through rough ones,” McCullers said. “I would be more anxious if I didn’t feel like I had good stuff or didn’t throw the ball well. I felt like I was fighting against a lot of different things the other day. Normal approach for me.”
McCullers (1-0, 4.67 ERA) gets the ball against the Angels on Thursday for his fourth start of the season. The third-year pitcher is 2-1 all-time against the Angels, with a 2.09 ERA in six starts.
In McCullers’ last outing, Hinch said he wasn’t commanding the breaking ball early. McCullers has come to be known for having a power curveball; when he is able to lay it in early for strikes, Hinch said he knows it will be a good day.
“The threat of his breaking ball is good as the actual function of the pitch,” he said. “The other side knows exactly what’s coming.”
Matt Shoemaker (0-0, 6.40 ERA) has struggled in the past to get seasons started on the right foot.
This year has been no different.
Shoemaker, who won four of his last seven starts closing out 2016, has struggled to get into the sixth inning this season.
“He’s thrown the ball a lot better than I think some things would indicate,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “But he’s not that far off.”
Heading into Thursday, Shoemaker is coming off arguably his best start of the year. He surrendered just two runs on five hits, striking out a season-high seven and walking two in 5 1/3 innings.
His pitch command has started to come around, Scioscia said, and it showed late in his last start.
“He’s had some rough spells here and there; but, for the most part, he’s not historically a fast starter, but he started to find some stuff later in his last outing. Hopefully he’ll carry it over.”
The Astros and Angels wrap up their four-game series on Thursday.