The Astros are one win from returning to the World Series, but if they advance, it looks increasingly possible that they’ll do so without the benefit of top starter Lance McCullers Jr. Manager Dusty Baker announced to reporters today that there’s no change with McCullers, who was ruled out for the ALCS (Twitter link via USA Today’s Bob Nightengale). The right-hander has not yet resumed throwing, which does not bode well for his World Series availability.
There’s similarly pessimistic news on center fielder Jake Meyers. The Astros aren’t replacing the promising rookie outfielder on the roster, but he’s unlikely to play again this series, according to Baker (via FOX 26’s Mark Berman). He could be available as a pinch-hitting or pinch-running option, however, and removing him from the roster mid-series would rule Meyers out for a potential World Series return. (Players removed from a postseason roster are ineligible to return for one full round of play.) Meyers has been batting a shoulder injury and recently had a setback.
Formally losing McCullers would be a tough blow for an Astros club that has rallied back from a 2-1 deficit to take a 3-2 series lead over the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. McCullers exited after four innings in Houston’s decisive Game 4 victory over the White Sox in the American League Division Series after revealing to the team that he’d experienced forearm discomfort.
McCullers underwent an MRI after the fact, and while the team hasn’t provided a formal diagnosis, it’s said to be a muscular issue rather than a structural issue (i.e. ligament damage). While McCullers was not included on the ALCS roster, there was at least hope that he’d be able to return should Houston qualify for a World Series showdown against either the Dodgers or the Braves.
If it indeed proves that McCullers can’t return, Houston’s options in his absence include Framber Valdez, Zack Greinke, Jake Odorizzi, Cristian Javier and rookie Luis Garcia — the latter of whom will get the nod in Game 6, according to Baker.
McCullers, 28, signed a five-year, $85MM extension in Spring Training, forgoing a potential run at free agency. He responded with a career-high 28 starts and 162 1/3 innings, pitching to a 3.16 ERA with a 27% strikeout rate and 11.1% walk rate along the way.