McCullers struck out one over a scoreless inning in Thursday's spring game against the Cardinals. McCullers breezed through his one inning, needing just 12 pitches to dispatch the side in order. The right-hander's fastball lived in the 94-95 mph range, and he had a good feel for his curveball, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. He was scheduled to throw one inning but was prepared to throw a second after an efficient first frame. Those plans were scuttled when the Astros sent 10 men to the plate in their half of the inning, so McCullers finished his night throwing in the bullpen, where he was able to throw his changeup.
McCullers signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal with Houston on Friday to avoid arbitration, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports. The 27-year-old returned from a lost 2019 campaign to post a 3.93 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 56:20 K:BB over 55 innings and he's now under contract for his final season of arbitration eligibility. McCullers should be a staple of Houston's starting rotation again in 2021.
McCullers took the loss in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Rays on Saturday, lasting just 3.2 innings while giving up three runs on four hits, including two homers. He struck out seven while walking one. McCullers' strikeout numbers were good, but that's just about the only positive thing that can be said for his disappointing outing. The Rays jumped on him early, with Randy Arozarena hitting a two-run homer in the first inning and Mike Zunino adding a solo shot in the second. McCullers will end the postseason with a 4.91 ERA in 14.2 innings despite an excellent 23:2 K:BB, as he was undone by a 50.0 percent HR/FB rate, allowing seven total homers.
McCullers struck out 11 batters while walking none and allowing just four hits in seven innings in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Rays on Monday, but he also gave up four runs (one earned) and picked up the loss. McCullers allowed a three-run homer to Manuel Margot in the bottom of the first inning after a two-out error from Jose Altuve extended the frame, which would wind up being all the runs the Rays would need in their 4-2 win. He was quite good the rest of the way, allowing just two baserunners, though one of them was a solo homer by Mike Zunino. While it didn't wind up being enough, it was still a strong outing for the righty, who now owns a career 2.93 ERA in 43 playoff innings.
McCullers lasted just four innings in Game 1 of the ALDS against Oakland on Monday, giving up five runs (four earned) on nine hits and a walk while striking out five. McCullers was done in by the long ball; he gave a two-run shot to Khris Davis in the second followed by solo homers to Sean Murphy and Matt Olson over the next two innings. He was pulled from the game after allowing the leadoff runner in the bottom of the fifth to reach base, who would eventually come around to score to add a fifth run to McCullers' tally. While the Astros' offense would eventually bail him out, it certainly wasn't the outing McCullers hoped to have in his first postseason start since 2017.