ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Lance McCullers Jr. struck out nine in seven shutout innings, and the Houston Astros beat Tampa Bay 9-2 Friday night in the first meeting of the teams since the Rays won Game 7 of last year's AL Championship Series.
Michael Brantley and Carlos Correa had four hits each, and Alex Bregman hit a two-run homer for the Astros, who have won seven of nine following a 1-9 skid.
“It was a great win where we haven’t gotten a lot of wins,” said McCullers, who won for the first time in four starts since April 3.
He gave up three hits and three walks while throwing a season-high 111 pitches.
“My heater and my changeup have been off since we left spring training, and I was costing myself some really good performances,” he said. “Today I just wanted to establish (the fastball) and Maldy (catcher Martín Maldonado) let me know how good it was throughout the game.”
“He threw his fastball more and it was the best slider I’ve seen him have in a while,” said manager Dusty Baker. "He found his rhythm at the end. It looked like his pitch count was rising. If it wasn’t for those walks he probably could have gone eight or maybe finished in nine. But the nice thing is they didn’t get any runs.
McCullers (2-1) left the game with a 6-0 lead.
“I looked up and saw 93 pitches, and I thought he was going to pull me,” he said. “But I was really happy he let me in, that I got that extra leash.”