McCullers 1st to give up 5 home runs in World Series game
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Lance McCullers Jr. didn’t have to look — he had seen enough already.
Rhys Hoskins had just lined a slider into the left-field seats for the Philadelphia Phillies’ fifth home run — five! — to punctuate one of the most calamitous starts in World Series history Tuesday night.
Only after hesitating did the 29-year-old Houston Astros right-hander turn for a peek. He really didn’t have to.
Bryce Harper, Alec Bohm, Brandon Marsh and Kyle Schwarber also went deep in the first five innings, 1,950 feet of long balls that powered Philadelphia to a 7-0 victory and a 2-1 Series lead.
Of course the Phillies would have five of a kind — they are, after all, a wild-card team.
“I don’t really get hit around like that, so I was a little bit in disbelief,” McCullers said, answering question after question for at least 10 minutes, telling a club official not to cut media off.
Five years after winning Game 3 of the Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, McCullers had a Charlie Brown-type outing, the first pitcher to allow five homers in any postseason game.
“Other than the homers, there was a lot of balls in the ground,” he said, chuckling and realizing what he had just said.
Was he tipping his pitches?
“I got whooped. End of story,” he said. “This has nothing to do with tipping.”
Schwarber walked leading off the first inning.
“We could all see he was kind of iffy from the start,” Phillies outfielder Nick Castellanos said.
Speculation started soon after Harper hit a go-ahead, two-run drive with two outs in the first, sending a knuckle-curve 402 feet into the right-center field seats. McCullers did a 360 and hopped off the mound, not even waiting for the ball to land.
“Kind of a lazy curveball,” catcher Martín Maldonado said.
Harper said something to Castellanos and pointed a finger at his teammate’s chest after crossing the plate.
“Guys are always looking for something, always looking to see if they’re tipping their pitches,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We didn’t see anything.”
Harper then yelled “Bohmer!” before a quick chat with Bohm, who was on deck.
“Anytime you have information, you want to be able to give that to your teammates at any point,” Harper said. “Throughout the whole season we’ve done that.”
Bohm led off the second with the 1,000th homer in Series history, driving a sinker 373 feet into the left-field stands.
Did Harper tell him anything?
“Maybe,” Bohm said with a smile.
Thirteen pitches later, Marsh sent a hanging slider soaring 358 feet and just over the right-center wall, where the ball dropped out of the glove of 10-year-old Ty Kuhner of Wilmington, Delaware, and bounced back onto the field. The home run call was upheld after a video review.
Schwarber led off the fifth with the most majestic of the homers, launching a hanging changeup 443 feet off the shrubbery behind the center-field fence. McCullers crouched, then turned and watched with a pained look as the ball landed.
“It was kind of mind-boggling because he doesn’t give up homers,” Baker said.
Pitching coach Bill Murphy visited the mound. Five pitches later, Hoskins reached out for a slider and drove it 374 feet into the front of the left-field stands. McCullers was pulled with a seven-run deficit.
“I don’t feel like the 2-0 slider was a mistake to Marsh. I didn’t feel like the changeup was a mistake,” McCullers said. “I didn’t think the pitch to Harper was great — that wasn’t a great one. The 0-0 to Bohm was supposed to be away, it leaked in. So I feel like some were good pitches that they just did a good job hitting and some were not the best pitches that they hit out.”
McCullers missed all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery and didn’t make his season debut this year until mid-August because of a strained right flexor tendon.
He had never before given up more than three homers in a game. Now he had broken the Series record: The Chicago Cubs’ Charlie Root gave up two each to the Yankees’ Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1932’s Game 3; Cincinnati’s Gene Thompson allowed four against the Yankees (including one by Joe DiMaggio) in 1939’s Game 3; and St. Louis’ Dick Hughes yielded four against Boston in 1967’s Game 6.
“Nothing else I can do now than prepare for a Game 7,” McCullers said. “I still believe if we get to that point I’m the best guy to take the ball, and I’ve just got to pitch better.”
With all due respect to the great two-way Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge is the AL MVP for a number of reasons. Not only did Judge put together one of the greatest single seasons in baseball history, he carried the Yankee offense, which sputtered through much of the season. And without him, the Yankees certainly would not have run away with the AL East the way they did. Judge plays every day, leads the majors in nine different categories and is superb defensively in both right and center field. And yes we know Ohtani’s 15 victories are third-most in the AL and his 34 homers fourth. But he did it for a team that is 15 games under .500 and 31 games out of first place. Any other year Ohtani would probably be the MVP, but this year Judge was far more valuable to the Yankees.
Frank Franklin II
The easy choice is Paul Goldschmidt who’s having a career season, leading the NL in OBP, slugging, OPS and total bases as the driving force in the Cardinals’ taking command of the NL Central. But teammate Nolan Arenado has been almost as productive, and if the Mets are able to win the NL East, Edwin Diaz, who’s had one of the most dominant seasons of any closer in history, has to be in the MVP conversation. I suspect, when pushed, Buck Showalter would say Diaz has been his overall most indispensable player this year; that, without him, the Mets would be hard-pressed to even make the postseason. Honorable Mention for Pete Alonso who’s had a monster career season with nearly 20 more RBIs than his nearest NL counterpart, but Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil have been equally indispensable to the Mets offense.
Much as we admire 39-year-old comebacker Justin Verlander (major league-leading 17 wins, 1.80 ERA), his month-long injury in mid-August opened the door for the White Sox numbingly consistent Dylan Cease, whose 2.06 ERA going into October was second in the majors to Verlander and set a major league record with 14 straight starts of allowing one or fewer runs. Cease was the one bright light in an otherwise miserably underachieving White Sox season. Besides, Verlander’s already won two Cys and his place as a first-ballot Hall of Famer is secure. How much more does he need?
The Dodgers’ Julio Urias (17-7, 2.12 ERA going into October) has been dominant but most everyone agrees the most feared and best starting pitcher in the National League is Marlins’ workhorse ace Sandy Alcantara (14-9, 2.28 ERA and a major league-leading 228 2/3 innings and six complete games with a bad team). In this day and age we especially appreciate durability. Special mention: Braves’ No. 3 starter, homegrown Kyle Wright, the majors' only 20-game winner.
As further testament to the best player development system in baseball, Gold Glove-caliber center fielder Michael Harris II, who was slashing .305/.344./531 going into October, is one of eight key homegrown Braves, along with fellow rookie standout, righty starter Spencer Strider. Harris is a budding superstar whose primary competition was Strider (11-5, 2.67 ERA, 202K in 131 2/3 IP) until he went down with an oblique injury in September.
Despite the remarkable turnaround season the Orioles had under Brandon Hyde, going from 110 losses to 80-plus wins, this may have been the best managing job of all by Hall of Fame-bound Terry Francona. Not too many picked the Guardians to win the AL Central, probably because so many of their players were (and still are) unfamiliar names as the youngest team in baseball. But Francona kept them hovering in second place until Aug. 9 as they quietly matured, before they climbed into first place and never relinquished it, going 12-3 against their prime competitors, the Twins and White Sox, down the stretch.
Who else but Buck? Showalter changed the entire Mets culture and has kept the Mets in first place (but for one day in April) the whole year, for their first postseason berth since 2016. Honorable mention: The Cardinals’ Oliver Marmol, who won a division title in his first year. But let’s be honest here. If the Mets win the NL East, Buck should be unanimous.
The rise of the Guardians to AL Central champs is the culmination of President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti’s gradual rebuild that began in 2016. In particular, Antonetti made three major trades, all of which worked out splendidly: Francisco Lindor to the Mets that reaped second baseman Andres Gimenez and shortstop Amed Rosario; righty starter Mike Clevinger to the Padres that brought back frontline starter Cal Quantrill, defense-plus catcher Austin Hedges and first baseman Josh Naylor, and Corey Kluber to the Rangers for All-Star closer Emmanuel Clase.
When he failed to acquire a much-needed lefty reliever at the trading deadline it was all “what have you done for us lately?” for Mets GM Billy Eppler. Forgotten was his stupendous offseason that produced Starling Marte, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Chris Bassitt and Adam Ottavino, all of whom have made major contributions to the transformation of a 77-85 Mets team in 2021 to potential NL East champions.
David J. Phillip
Philadelphia Phillies' Rhys Hoskins rounds the bases after a home run off Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. during the fifth inning in Game 3 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)