The Houston Astros’ fears were confirmed Friday.
McCullers exited Game 4 of the Astros’ AL Division Series against the Chicago White Sox with forearm tightness, a concerning development considering the right-hander missed the entire 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
It’s unclear whether McCullers will be available to pitch in the World Series, should the Astros advance, but his loss is a crushing blow to Houston’s rotation plans for the ALCS. Boston’s offense has been one of the best in Major League Baseball this season, and McCullers pitched well in two postseason starts against Chicago (one earned run over 10 2/3 innings) before leaving Tuesday’s outing.
McCullers, an All-Star in 2017, went 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 1.22 WHIP and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 28 regular-season starts (162 1/3 innings). He didn’t face the Red Sox in 2021 and hasn’t had much success against Boston in the past (5.40 ERA over 25 innings), but the 28-year-old is no stranger to pitching on the big stage, posting a 2.83 ERA in 16 career playoff appearances (57 1/3 innings).
Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia will start Games 1 and 2, respectively, for Houston, while Boston will counter with Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi. There figure to be plenty of offensive fireworks in the series, but a pitcher of McCullers’ caliber could have swung the balance of power in the Astros’ favor.
Jake Odorizzi will replace McCullers on the Astros’ ALCS roster. Houston also swapped out catcher Garrett Stubbs for left-handed reliever Blake Taylor.
Here’s the Astros’ full ALCS roster: