Astros turn to Lance McCullers Jr. to salvage series vs. Tigers

MLB

There was little reason for the Houston Astros to expect veteran right-hander Jake Odorizzi to pitch deep into Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Tigers.

But Odorizzi failed to escape the fourth inning in the Astros’ 8-2 loss, which wasn’t the team’s expectation either.

“We were hoping he’d go 80 pitches but when he got to 60-65 pitches, he didn’t appear to have as much movement on his pitches. I don’t know if they made the adjustments or if Odorizzi couldn’t find the movement on his pitches,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said afterward.

Regardless, Astros starters have logged just 24 innings over the first five games of this six-game homestand. Those starters have suffered three consecutive losses, and the strain is starting to show in a bullpen already short-handed by injuries.

“We’re trying to stick with them as long as we can,” Baker said of his starters. “The pitchers feel as bad about it and the pitching coaches feel terrible about it. We’re operating with about a third of our bullpen not even here. It’s not the uniform, it’s the people in the uniform. We’ve got to find a way to survive until we get some guys back.”

Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will start the series and homestand finale for the Astros on Wednesday.

McCullers has worked five innings and allowed one run on two hits and three walks in both of his starts this season while amassing 13 strikeouts. He is 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA in three career starts against the Tigers and last faced Detroit on July 30, 2017, when he allowed five runs on eight hits and four walks in five innings in a 13-1 loss at Comerica Park.

Right-hander Michael Fulmer (0-0, 2.57 ERA) will start for the Tigers as they pursue the series sweep. It will mark the first start of the season for Fulmer, who has logged seven innings and accumulated 10 strikeouts over three relief appearances thus far in 2021.

Fulmer made 10 starts last season, his first after missing all of 2019 following elbow surgery, but he did not log more than three innings in any of those outings and totaled just 27 2/3 innings total. He is 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA over two career starts against the Astros.

One night after smacking three home runs in its series-opening win, Detroit belted five more Tuesday, including a pair from catcher Wilson Ramos. Renato Nunez and Akil Baddoo both homered for a second consecutive game, with Baddoo running his total to four home runs.

For a lineup missing Miguel Cabrera and a pitching staff laboring to patch some holes, the run support is welcome.

“I’m very happy for all my teammates that are hitting the ball really well,” said Ramos, who bumped his season total to six homers. “It’s very good for the team.

“That’s what we need. We need to give support to the pitching rotation. Now we’ve started hitting better and making some runs.”

–Field Level Media

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