HOUSTON – Lance McCullers knew there was a “less than 1%” chance that he would be able to pitch in the World Series for the Houston Astros because of a forearm strain. The right-hander waited as long as possible, and didn't beat those odds.
“We remained hopeful," McCullers said Monday, when announcing the day before Game 1 against the Atlanta Braves that he wouldn't be on the Houston roster. "We tried to pushed it as far as we could, but just couldn’t make it back to throwing,. ... There was no point to write me off before we had to."
After a career-high 13 wins during the regular season, when he also had a 3.16 ERA and 185 strikeouts, McCullers got hurt in the AL Division Series. He pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a Game 1 victory over the Chicago White Sox, then allowed one run with five strikeouts over four innings before leaving the Game 4 series clincher Oct. 12 what the team said then was forearm tightness.
McCullers said the flexor pronator muscle strain in his right arm usually means six to eight weeks before even picking up a ball. The 28-year-old pitcher, who signed an $85 million, five-year contract extension in March through 2026, said doctors have indicated that they don't believe there are any other issues. He expects to be fully healthy by spring training.
“It’s disappointing for sure, especially with the season that I had and the first round that I had,” McCullers said. “But I feel like I made big impacts for our team the whole season and down the stretch and then in the first round. Hopefully, I can make impacts in other areas for this round.”
McCullers started Game 7 of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium when Houston won its first championship.
NOT SAYING YET
While McCullers is out, it was the pitcher and not Astros manager Dusty Baker who made that announcement.
Baker didn’t have much to say about any other roster decisions for the World Series, or even who would be Houston’s starting pitcher for Game 2 on Wednesday night.
When asked if he knew who his Game 2 starter would be, Baker responded, “Yeah, but we’re not going to announce it yet because we don’t know who’s starting for them.”
Rookie center fielder Jake Meyers didn’t play in the AL Championship Series against Boston after hurting his shoulder trying to make a catch against the wall in the ALDS clincher against the White Sox. Baker wouldn’t say if he expected Meyers to be on the World Series roster that has to be finalized by Tuesday morning.
“We’re not going to announce any of our playoff rosters for a while,” Baker said. “So I’m not at liberty to say right now because they’re still trying to determine that.”
TOP TWO PICKS
Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson and Astros third baseman Alex Bregman were the first two picks in baseball's amateur draft in 2015, and the former SEC shortstops who played on a USA collegiate national team together. Both made their big league debuts weeks apart in 2016.
Now they are on opposite sides in the World Series.
“I feel like, whenever we’ve competed against one another, it’s been at an extremely high level, just in terms of the teams we were both on and the stages on which we were playing,” Swanson said. “So it seems like the same story is true now in the World Series and playing against one another.”
Swanson was the No. 1 overall pick out of Vanderbilt, a year after the Commodores won the national championship, when he was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks, who traded him to the Braves at the end of 2015.
Bregman was taken No. 2 overall from LSU by the Astros, and made his big league debut on July 25, 2016. Swanson played his first game for the Braves on Aug. 17, 2016.
“Had a blast playing with him, competing against him in college. He's a competitor, a winner, a great baseball player,” Bregman said of Swanson. “He does a lot of things well on the baseball field.”
This is the third season in a row Swanson has been in the playoffs with Atlanta, but his first World Series.
Houston has been to the playoffs in all five of Bregman's full seasons. This is the third World Series for the Astros in that span, including their 2017 title.
THIS IS REAL
Brian Snitker is in his 45th season in Braves organization as a player, coach or manager. This is his first World Series.
“All day yesterday I roamed the house and was numb. I’m starting to get feeling back in my body and mind and everything,” Snitker said Monday after arriving in Houston. “Really just the thought that, my God, we’re in the World Series. ... And how hard it is to get here.”
There is also the family connection since his son, Troy, is a hitting coach for the Astros.
The 66-year-old Snitker, in his sixth season as the big league manager, described being at the World Series as “kind of surreal for me.”
His three stints as an assistant coach on the Braves' big league staff came before and after they went to five World Series from 1991-99, winning in 1995. He started in the organization as an undrafted player who was part of four minor league seasons from 1977-80.
NOT WINNING AT HOME
No team has won a World Series game in its home stadium since the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series.
That was the 18-inning marathon at Dodgers Stadium, before the Red Sox won the next two games there to clinch their fourth World Series title in a span of 15 seasons. Boston did win the first two games of that 2018 Series at Fenway Park.
In 2019, the visiting team won all seven games for the first time in World Series history, with the Washington Nationals taking the series over the Astros by winning Games 6 and 7 at Minute Maid Park.
When the Dodgers won last year's World Series in six games over the Tampa Bay Rays, all of those games were played at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, where the NL Division Series, NL Championship Series and World Series were all played inside a bubble because of the pandemic.
ANOTHER 18 INNINGS
The last time the Braves and Astros met in the postseason, Houston clinched the 2005 National League Division Series wit a 7-6 win in Game 4 on Chris Burke's game-ending homer in the 18th inning.
Roger Clemens was the eighth and final Astros pitcher that day, throwing three scoreless innings with four strikeouts for the victory in relief.
Houston moved to the American League in 2013.
SAFE AT HOME
One of the lasting images of Dusty Baker’s last World Series trip in 2002 was when his son, Darren, then only 3 years old, was serving as a bat boy for the San Francisco Giants and had to be snatched from home plate by J.T. Snow to avoid being hit by David Bell in Game 5 against the Angels.
“Time passes very quickly, and we are remembering that time. Everybody remembers that except him. He’s the only one that doesn’t remember it,” Baker said. “People remind him of it all the time. Sometimes he gets tired of talking about it, but it is part of my history, Giants history, baseball history, and his history.”
Darren Baker just played his first season of pro ball in the Washington Nationals system.
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