The Houston Astros continue to stay ahead of the rest of the majors’ pack with a 31-16 record, taking down competitors left and right.
It’s not only that the Houston Astros are hitting for power but they’re able to do it in a timely manner being able smack balls out of the park, one by one. Now it’s certainly understandable that our guys will have moments where they can’t seem to hit the side of the barn but this team continues to persevere despite what’s in front of them.
But one thing that certainly has gone unnoticed is the resiliency of our pitching staff at moments that count. With all things considered, a team that’s contending for a World Series must have great pitching in their stable as well. We certainly have that at this time. Yes, our 3-4-5 pitchers in Charlie Morton, Mike Fiers and Joe Musgrove could have just as good as our 1’s and 2’s but that’s what we live with.
But there’s one guy that has been recognized for his performance on the mound with him being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Who am I talking about? I’m talking about Lance McCullers, Jr.! This guy has been lights out since the start of the season and although I had my concerns in regard to how he’d come back from his elbow injury he sustained last season, he’s doing just fine.
But exactly how is he doing his damage? It’s with his devastating curveball. In the SI cover story, Tom Verducci talks about the “resurgence” of such a damaging pitch, having been around more than 150 years, just as long as the existence of America’s pastime. In fact, Verducci notes that McCullers uses this pitch when the pitch count is strike two 68 percent of the time.
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Does he strike them out? Absolutely and you don’t have to take my word for it. McCullers hasn’t allowed a earned run in 27 innings pitched, a hot streak that any ace would be proud of. His May performance has been incredible, he’s currently holding onto a 0.59 ERA, allowing 16 hits, fanning 29 batters and walking eight through 30 1/3 innings pitched. So to say that his curveball is working along with the other amazing stuff he’s throwing is an understatement. McCullers is certainly confident of his fastball and he gave Verducci this nugget of a quote:
"“I feel it come off my hand and I know it’s most likely going to result in a punch-out,” he says. “A hitter knows off the hands when the ball hits his sweet spot and it’s going to be a homer. I have that feeling when it comes out of my hand. Like, This is a really quality pitch.”"
He’s right and Verducci also notes that the teams are moving away from the traditional fastball and making the curve relevant once again. He notes that the Houston Astros success is congruent to the curveball, with our pitching staff throwing 14.1 percent of them. The Chicago White Sox (16.6), Boston Red Sox (14.6) and the Cleveland Indians (14.2) were the only teams that threw more on the regular.
That would certainly explain the struggles the Houston Astros had with the Indians this past series, almost getting shutout last Saturday until Jose Altuve has able to successfully break up a no-hit bid by Mike Clevinger. As you know, the Houston Astros were eventually swept out the door in their own building, wondering what the hell happened.
It’s the curveball and as long as batters have trouble hitting it, McCullers will continue to rule the MLB world with his arm. And for that, I’m damn proud to be witnessing something this legendary. We’ll have to see how McCullers continues this surge throughout the season but methinks that he will be just fine.
Go Houston Astros.