McCullers continues to impress in rookie campaign
Right-hander allows just one run over seven strong frames for Houston
HOUSTON -- By now, Astros manager A.J. Hinch knows what to expect from rookie pitcher Lance McCullers.
And McCullers pays no mind to what opponents expect of him.
"Attack the zone, pound the zone," McCullers said after his seven-inning, four-hit victory in a 6-1 win against the Royals. "I stick with my game plan, those guys are going to make adjustments, I'm going to make adjustments, but at the end of the day, I have to do what I'm going to do best."
McCullers needed 39 pitches to escape his first two frames, where the patient Royals fouled off countless pitches and got a runner to second with less than two outs in each inning.
He stayed true to his plan, pounding the strike zone, but made a slight adjustment to his curveball after the third inning. Because his pitch count was mounting, he started to throw it more in the strike zone instead of burying it in the dirt, which resulted in weak contact.
McCullers cruised after that, retiring eight of the 10 batters he faced after the third inning before Salvador Perez took him deep to lead off the seventh -- just the second home run McCullers has given up in his career.
"Got a few punchouts and do a little bit of soft contact, got through seven innings," Hinch said. "A really quality start even with a couple leadoff runners on base. Controlled the running game; they didn't really attempt anything. Pitched well with a lead. Another good outing by him."
After his one-run performance, McCullers has now allowed one earned run or fewer in six of his first nine Major League starts. He's also registered six or more strikeouts in seven of the nine starts.
McCullers will finish June with a 2.11 ERA, the lowest posted by an Astros rookie in June since Darryl Kile's 1.80 mark in 1991.
Told of all his accolades and asked if he envisioned this for himself after he was called up from Double-A Corpus Christi, McCullers only thought of his team.
"My goal is always for the team," McCullers said. "Team wins, go deep for the guys, give the bullpen a break and always compete out there. The results hopefully will be there, but as long as the guys know I go out and give 100 percent all the time, that's all I care about."