Astros' Cole aims to rebound vs. A's after loss in last start
HOUSTON -- Astros right-hander Lance McCullers produced, by Game Score, his best start of the season on Saturday, continuing his development as the youngest arm in a stellar rotation.
How McCullers, 24, culls information from the other right-handers in the rotation is an ongoing process. What Justin Verlander, 35, Charlie Morton, 34, and Gerrit Cole, 27, have to offer relative to guidance can yield only limited influence. How McCullers, who twirled seven shutout innings in the Astros' 11-0 win over the Oakland Athletics, continues to manage his unique repertoire will speak to his growth.
"It's really about trying to find a specific game plan for himself that's not like JV or Cole or Morton, our other right-handed pitchers, because he's very unique," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
"Most of that stuff is routine-based and a little bit of how you watch video of the opponent, how you incorporate your strengths there. Just generally being a starting pitcher in this league and having to go through this league a couple times. Stuff like that, I think the veteran pitchers can rub off on guys. Pitch-by-pitch you have to pitch to your strengths and match up against the weakness of the hitter. Sometimes that's similar to how Verlander and Cole will do, sometimes it's not."
Cole (2-1, 1.29 ERA) will make his sixth start of the season for the Astros (18-10). He suffered his first loss last Monday against the Los Angeles Angels after allowing two runs on four hits over seven innings. He retired the first 13 batters he faced before losing his perfect game bid with one out in the fifth when third baseman Luis Valbuena reached via a single.
Cole is 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA in his career against the Athletics, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts over seven innings in a 2-1 loss during his rookie season on July 9, 2013, at PNC Park.
Right-hander Trevor Cahill (1-0, 2.25 ERA) will start the series finale for the Athletics. It will mark his third start since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville on April 17.
Cahill is 1-0 with a 6.14 ERA over two career appearances (including one start) against the Astros, with his victory coming as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sept. 20, 2012, at Chase Field. Cahill pitched in relief for the Chicago Cubs against the Astros on Sept. 11, 2016, at Minute Maid Park.
With McCullers on the bump for the Astros, Oakland faced a right-handed pitcher for just the second time in eight games. The Athletics (14-12) dropped to 8-7 against righties and improved to 6-6 against southpaws with their 8-1 win against Astros southpaw Dallas Keuchel on Friday.
Their 12 starts against lefties were the most in the American League entering Saturday, a fact that led to some stretches of inactivity for some left-handed hitters. Left fielder Matt Joyce made just his third start since April 18 on Saturday, absent from the starting lineup over five consecutive games while the Athletics faced the Red Sox left-handed trio of Drew Pomeranz, Chris Sale, and David Price, plus Rangers lefties Matt Moore and Cole Hamels.
"I felt like we have the personnel to play better against left-handed pitching than we have in previous years," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "But at the same time Matt Joyce needs to get his handcuffs off too; he likes to play. So, it's good to get some lefties in.
"As we do, we try to get everybody involved. When you have that many lefties in a row, guys who hit left-handed don't get to get up to speed in their at-bats."
Updated April 28, 2018