Astros: Kyle Tucker had some highs and lows during his debut
By Eric Huysman
Kyle Tucker makes his Astros debut in front of a sell-out crowd.
When a player makes their MLB debut, there has to be some crazy emotions going through their mind. To expect a player to be entirely focused under the microscope of a bigger audience is unfair. However, performing in front of people is what they do. Kyle Tucker made his debut last night in front of 39,568 fans at Minute Maid Park. Fans paid for the chance to get the Astros gym bag but ended up witnessing a big moment for the Astros franchise.
Tucker said that he got the news last night and informed his family, who made the last minute change of schedule. Via an interview on ATT Sportsnet, Tucker’s dad said that the family was in South Carolina. They were planning a trip to visit brother Preston Tucker and watch Tucker play in the Triple-A All-Star game on July 11th. Then they had to change plans and get to Houston as fast as they could.
Unfortunately, their plane was 1.5 hours late, causing them to miss the first two innings of the game. They missed his first at-bat waiting at will call, but they were able to see the other four plate appearances. In Tucker’s first three at-bats, Tucker looked a little overmatched versus James Shields. He struck out three times, but you don’t face pitchers like Shields in the minor leagues.
Put the strikeouts behind you.
It didn’t really matter that Tucker struck out those three times (twice swinging), the Astros were already up 6-1 after the third one. The Astros did not call him up expecting that he would carry the offense. They hoped that he would be a complementary piece while he learns on the go. But Tucker wasn’t discouraged after his first three at-bats.
During the seventh inning, Tucker came up to bat after Josh Reddick and Evan Gattis were retired. Tucker walked up to the plate, ready to get something started to add insurance runs. Tucker worked the count full with the crowd cheering him on. They wanted to see him get his first hit. On the 3-2 count, Tucker swings and hits a ground ball towards first base that gets by the first baseman.
"“That’s about as loud a cheer for even a foul ball that I’ve heard.” – AJ Hinch via Mark Berman."
The crowd was a loud.
It was the first hit of his major league career, and the crowd erupted like it was a grand slam to win Game 7 of the World Series. The crowd gave him a standing ovation as the 2017 AL MVP, Jose Altuve went to collect the baseball. Get used to it kid. These fans are going to love you. Tucker advanced to third base on a single by Max Stassi. After a pitching change, Tucker would score his first run off a Marwin Gonzalez single.
After the game, Astros manager AJ Hinch also pointed out how the crowd was rooting for Tucker. “That’s about as loud a cheer for even a foul ball that I’ve heard.” This was before Tucker got his first hit.
No golden sombrero for Tucker in his debut. But the kid wasn’t done yet. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Gattis walks to load the bases with one out. Once again, Tucker works the count full. He would take ball four on a checked swing, to drive in Yuli Gurriel to make it 11-6. Once again, the crowd shows love for their rookie. Tucker got his first hit, walk, run scored, and RBI in his debut, not too shabby.
The dimensions in left field are a little different than the typical ballpark. Before the game, Tucker was taking some fly balls to get a feel for how the ball bounces off the scoreboard. It is impossible to simulate all game situations though, as we saw last year in the playoffs when the ball got stuck in the outfield fence.
The lows on defense.
In the sixth inning, the floodgates opened on Charlie Morton when Omar Narvaez hits a bases-clearing double with the bases loaded. What the scorecard does not show is that Tucker got stuck at the scoreboard, with the ball falling down in front of the visitors’ bullpen. It would have been a difficult play for anyone, especially a player unfamiliar with the dimensions.
After the game, Tucker said that his first single was off a slider that he got the barrel on, and they didn’t catch it. Tucker showed his resilience by saying you have to put the bad at-bats behind you. He said the game started slowing down after his first catch and strikeout in the second inning, got better as the game went on.
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Now that Tucker has his first game under his belt, we will see how he responds tomorrow without the nervousness. Not everyone can start producing as Carlos Correa did in his MLB debut, some struggle like Alex Bregman did. The Astros want to see what they have in Tucker in anticipation of the July trade deadline. If he shows that he is ready, the left field position is one less target to focus on.