HOUSTON -- There might not be a player on the Astros who is easier to root for than outfielder Chas McCormick. A 21st-round Draft pick out of Division II Millersville University, McCormick has been a constant presence in the mix of center fielders the Astros have employed since letting George Springer walk in free agency after the 2020 season.
McCormick has found himself wondering about his future as he scrambled for playing time with Myles Straw, who was traded in 2021; Jake Meyers, who was the starting center fielder in the playoffs in ‘21 before being hurt; and Jose Siri, who was traded last year. Still, McCormick has had to battle to stay in the lineup for much of this season, as well.
What could he do if he just had some consistent at-bats? The Astros are finding out.
McCormick drove in a career-high six runs, including a game-tying homer in the seventh inning off Aroldis Chapman, to put the Astros in position to beat the Rangers, 10-9, on Monday night at Minute Maid Park with a walk-off single by rookie Yainer Diaz in the ninth.
“It was huge,” McCormick said. “The past four or five times we’ve played these guys, it seems like it's a high-scoring game and we’re going to go extra innings. It’s big to grab this one tonight, but we have to be strong and come ready to play tomorrow.”
The win moved the Astros to within two games of the first-place Rangers in the American League West standings with two games remaining in the series.
“That was the win of the year, so far,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
Monday’s game marked the career-high 14th consecutive game McCormick has started, mostly in center field (seven) and left field (six). He’s slashing .348/.456/.717 with five homers and 14 RBIs during that span, upping his season OPS to .902.
“I feel like I'm starting to catch my stride a little bit,” McCormick said. “I'm seeing the ball well up there and physically I feel great. I just want to try anyway to help this team win and I hope we can keep the momentum going and keep winning.”
McCormick came to the plate in the first against Rangers starter Jon Gray with the bases loaded and no outs. He crushed a fastball and sailed it towards center field, where it hit near the top of the wall a Statcast-projected 418 feet from home plate. McCormick thought he had a grand slam and pointed to the Houston dugout in celebration, but he settled for a two-run double.
“Center field is a graveyard,” he said.
Another bases-loaded plate appearance in the fifth resulted in a sac fly, and when he came to the plate in the seventh with two runners on base, the Astros trailed, 9-6. Chapman walked José Abreu and Kyle Tucker, and McCormick cranked the next pitch -- a 97.4 mph fastball -- over the wall in left-center for a game-tying three-run homer.
“I just made sure I was on time,” McCormick said. “He obviously throws 100. I faced him in Dallas a month ago. That was my first time facing him. I was a little shaky with him. I didn’t know when to load, but I had a good feeling when to load [Monday] and when to shorten up, and I put a good swing on it tonight.”
McCormick came to bat in the ninth with the winning run at first and managed a walk against Alex Speas. Time for someone else to play the hero. Diaz shot an RBI single to right field to score a sliding Kyle Tucker from second base, just ahead of the throw.
“I saw the pitcher had similar pitches to the starter and I told myself, ‘Maybe I should change my plan there a little bit,’” Diaz said. “I was swinging at some pitches out of the zone, so I said I’m going to take the pitch the other way.”
The Astros have won consecutive games against the Rangers despite allowing 20 runs across the last two meetings. They won Monday despite walking seven batters and committing two errors, thanks to McCormick’s career night, three hits from Alex Bregman and a timely swing from Diaz.
“Chas had a great night,” Baker said. “Hey, man, don’t stop him. Just stay on it. You’ve got to ride this hot hand.”