HOUSTON —Lance McCullers Jr. won’t pitch for the Astros this series.
Arguably Houston’s best pitcher was finally ruled out on Monday after he suffered a strained elbow during the ALDS. McCullers said it’s the type of injury that takes six to eight weeks to heal to the point he could pick up a ball.
“We tried to push it as far as we could, but just couldn’t make it back to throwing,’’ McCullers said Monday at Minute Maid Park. “It’s disappointing. I’m just going to keep doing what I can do and have all the faith in our team and the guys that we have out there and try to win a World Series.
Framber Valdez, who pitched eight innings in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Red Sox, will start for the Astros in Game 1 on Tuesday and Houston manager Dusty Baker said though the team had decided on a Game 2 starter, he wouldn’t announce it.
McCullers had a 3.16 ERA in the regular season and pitched twice against the White Sox in the ALDS.
The Astros enter the World Series with a better record than Atlanta, but no team was hotter than the Braves after the trade deadline. They’re 44-22 since they bolstered their team on July 30, remaking their outfield.
Freddie Freeman called it “pretty amazing” the Braves were still playing given how their season went and the moves it made at the deadline. Marcell Ozuna is on administrative leave after being arrested on assault charges after allegedly assaulting his wife. Ronald Acuna Jr. had surgery to repair his ACL and the Braves were saved by the arrival of Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler and Adam Duvall.
“We’ve got a whole different team pretty much in the outfield,’’ Freeman said. “We were just trying to figure out how all this worked. … We were just trying to figure out how all these pieces fit on our team. Next thing you know, about a month in, the pieces started fitting, and we started rolling as a group. To have a whole new outfield that you did in April than you did at the end of July, it’s hard to do.”
As Baker prepares to face the organization that drafted him in the World Series, he was asked about the effect Hank Aaron had on him.
“I think about him all the time, especially in a series like this,’’ Baker said. “I feel his presence, especially him and my dad.”
Baker made his MLB debut with Atlanta in 1968, when he was 19 and Aaron was a 34-year-old slugger. “He had a tremendous impact not only on the baseball field, but in my life and in my family and in business. I’ll be forever grateful to him, and he’s had probably a great impact also on [Atlanta manager Brian] Snitker over there because he hired him when Hank was a farm director to begin his managerial career. So Hank’s footprints are all over this series.”
This is Baker’s second appearance managing in the World Series — and first since 2002, when he was with the Giants. San Francisco lost to the Angels in a series in which one of the most memorable moments was J.T. Snow grabbing Baker’s 3-year-old son, Darren, who was a bat boy for the Giants and was near home plate as Snow crossed the plate.
“Time passes very quickly, and we are remembering that time,’’ Baker said of Darren, who is now 22 and was drafted by the Nationals in the 10th round of this year’s amateur draft. “Everybody remembers that except him. He’s the only one that doesn’t remember it. People remind him of it all the time. Sometimes he gets tired of talking about it, but it is part of my history, Giants history, baseball history, and his history. Now he’s trying to make his own history with the Nationals as a player, and I’m just glad that he was able to be here for this.”