It was not a great game on the mound for Astros starter Lance McCullers yesterday.
Not only was Astros starter Lance McCullers facing a tough opponent in Carlos Carrasco, but he was facing the Indians lineup back to back. Not to mention the pressure of trying to follow Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel’s games where they limited the Indians to two runs in their starts. Now it was his turn to pitch well.
McCullers pitches with such intensity, which is the polar opposite of the rest of the rotation. It was surprising a few starts ago when Justin Verlander showed the emotion he did in his complete game. When things are going well for McCullers, he can ride that adrenaline to perform well. However, when things are not going well, he seems to exude nervous energy.
Like we saw this year with Ken Giles, too much emotion is not good. In last night’s game, McCullers was in the midst of a scoreless game in the bottom of the second inning. Edwin Encarnacion led off the inning with a double and went to third on a wild pitch. Yonder Alonso walked bringing up Melky Cabrera. Despite the recent successes of the offense, McCullers didn’t want to fall behind early.
Cabrera hit a ball that went by Yuli Gurriel, called an error, with Jose Altuve backing up the play. After the play, McCullers was visibly upset about the play. This did not escape Jose Altuve, who is morphing into the team leader if he wasn’t already. The Indians only scored that run in that inning.
As McCullers was walking off the mound to the dugout, he saw Altuve in his peripheral vision and reached his glove out to say ”good job” that inning. Instead of Altuve returning the jester, he swatted McCullers’ glove away and then slammed his glove down in the dugout. He motioned to McCullers to join him in the tunnel out of the view of the camera.
Baseball players don’t like controversial things to become public knowledge, which is weird that Trevor Bauer brought up the spin rate ball doctoring. This is not something you put out in social media. Teams also like to keep things in-house, which is what made Altuve so upset. Don’t show up your own teammate. As a player, Altuve could have ignored the issue, but instead, he decided to act upon it.
Altuve’s message, you are not 21 anymore.
Look at the tweet below from Chandler Rome. Altuve wanted him to know that all the players try hard to make the plays, just like he does to pitch. However, you have to be supportive of your teammates.
No one really knows what was said, but McCullers apologized to the whole team after the game. He alluded that his emotions got to him and he apologized for the immature response to adversity. McCullers went on to give up seven runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched, with three homers.
When I was watching the game, I saw McCullers expression after the error and assumed A.J. Hinch would address it. Altuve didn’t give him a chance and addressed it in a semi-private manner after the brief exchange in the dugout. Credit to McCullers for realizing the mistake and being receptive to the message.
McCullers pitches with his heart on his sleeve, that’s what makes him great. Hopefully, he can move past this and become a better teammate behind that exchange with Altuve. That was Altuve being what this team needs, a clubhouse leader other than the coaching staff. There should be no hard feelings between the two World Champions from here on out. This team could be special again.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***