PHILADELPHIA – Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. became the only pitcher to give up five home runs in a postseason game Tuesday night.
Houston driver Dusty Baker took some of the responsibility for this embarrassing distinction in the Astros 7-0 loss against the Phillies in Game 3 of the World Series, becoming the only manager to see his pitcher allow that many home runs in a postseason game.
“The reasoning,” Baker explained, “was the fact that we had two good innings, two really good innings. Then they connected a blooper, a home run, and then I couldn’t send anyone to warm up. I mean, it was my decision.”
This is the second time this Fall Classic that Baker’s moves (or lack thereof) have cost the Astros, who now trail in the series, 2-1. Baker hesitated to remove right-hander Justin Verlander from the mound in Game 1 at Minute Maid Park, only to watch his ace blow a five-run lead in a game Houston lost, 6-5, in 10 innings.
This time, Baker’s faith in McCullers lasted too long. The helmsman selected McCullers to start Game 3 over Cristian Javier in part because Houston expected McCullers to keep the ball inside Citizens Bank Park, but Bryce Harper knocked it out of the park on the first pitch he saw after Kyle Schwarber received the ball. he walked opening the game, quickly putting the Phillies up 2-0.
Alec Bohm led off the second inning with a homer, and television cameras caught Harper secretly passing Bohm a message immediately after his at-bat. Brandon Marsh added a solo shot later in that inning. If the Phillies knew something, they weren’t going to divulge it.
“I can only say that our analytics team is pretty good at spotting trends,” Philadelphia outfielder Nick Castellanos said.
Harper’s and Marsh’s homers both came on breaking pitches, the first time McCullers has given up multiple home runs on breaking pitches in a career start. McCullers said his unfortunate departure “had nothing to do with telegraphing his shipments” and Baker said there was no indication to that effect.
“Guys are always looking for something, always trying to figure out if our pitcher is telegraphing his pitches,” Baker said. “We didn’t see anything. There are times when you just get plugged in hard, you know what I mean? Who knows, maybe they were ready to hit breaking balls, because it was on those pitches that they went over the fence.”
As for what Baker said about McCullers having “two good innings,” the right-hander did right the ship, holding Houston down four runs while retiring eight opponents in a row.
“At that point in the game, I didn’t feel like the game was lost,” McCullers said. “I felt like we still had a chance to come back.”
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Baker explained his decision not to take McCullers out early