Right-hander mostly pleased with 5-strikeout performance on Sunday
By Glenn Sattell
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. left Sunday's 4-3 win over the Yankees in the fourth inning with right foot skin irritation. The right-hander worked through 3 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits in a 6-4 loss. He struck out five and walked two.
The hardness of the mound in front of the rubber at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches eventually rubbed a hole in McCullers' shoe, exposing his foot, which in turn rubbed raw and started bleeding.
"I'll be fine," McCullers said. "I have no worries about that. I got new shoes; I'll put them on. It was kind of one of those things. This happens to a lot of guys throughout the course of the season. If I had got that [third out] before [Kyle Higashioka's] single, this wouldn't even be a topic to discuss."
McCullers worked himself into a jam in the fourth inning, loading the bases with two outs when Astros manager A.J. Hinch came out to check on his pitcher. After a brief discussion with the pitcher and head trainer Jeremiah Randall, Hinch decided to make a move to the bullpen.
Hinch temporarily paused an interview with the Astros' TV booth to make the mound visit, and he resumed the discussion after the pitching change to assuage any fears of serious injury to McCullers.
McCullers, 23, is looking to bounce back from right elbow discomfort that cut short his 2016 season in early August.
"I felt good, I was throwing a lot of heaters for strikes in the first couple of innings," McCullers said. "The last inning got away from me, but overall I felt good. I thought the ball was coming out [of my hand] well, hitting my spots, throwing all three pitches [fastball, curve, change] for strikes."
McCullers struggled in the first inning, giving up back-to-back singles to start the game. Both baserunners eventually scored on a two-out, two-run double by Yankees third baseman Chase Headley.
But he settled down after yielding a leadoff single to start the second inning, striking out the next two batters and then breezed through the third, retiring the Yankees in order.
It looked like an uneventful fourth inning when McCullers struck out two Yankees after giving up a leadoff walk. But another walk and a single spelled the end to his day.
"I really wanted to throw a lot of [my] fastball/changeup combo today, and then some guys get on base and you get into the flow of the game and start breaking off some breaking balls," McCullers said. "I probably threw more changeups than curveballs today."
Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.