Lance McCullers Jr. Cut Elbow on Bottle in Astros Celebration; ALCS Start Moved Back

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVOctober 21, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 21: Lance McCullers Jr. #43 of the Houston Astros throws a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first inning during a baseball game at Tropicana Field on September 21, 2022 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Lance McCullers Jr. (Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. said Friday he suffered a small cut on his pitching elbow during the team's celebration after its ALDS triumph over the Seattle Mariners last week.

SportsTalk 790 @SportsTalk790

Lance McCullers Jr “caught a champagne bottle to the elbow” during the ALDS clubhouse celebration after beating the Mariners. “I’m fine..it was no one’s fault, it was an accident” <a href="https://t.co/7D7DQKkzof">pic.twitter.com/7D7DQKkzof</a>

As a result, McCullers' ALCS start against the New York Yankees has been moved back to Game 4. The Astros announced Cristian Javier will move up to take the ball in Game 3 on Saturday.

McCullers delivered six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts in Houston's series-clinching win over the Mariners on Saturday. He hasn't allowed more than two runs in a start since Aug. 19 against the Atlanta Braves, a span of seven outings.

The 29-year-old Florida native compiled a 2.27 ERA and 1.24 WHIP across eight starts during the regular season. He missed a majority of the campaign with a forearm injury.

Injuries have been a concern throughout the right-hander's career—he's never reached the 30-start threshold in eight years with Houston, including Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of 2019—but he's been reliable when healthy with a 3.48 career ERA.

There isn't really a drop off to Javier, who posted a 2.54 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 30 appearances (25 starts) for the AL Central champions in the regular season.

The Astros have also created some leeway for themselves by winning the first two games of the ALCS. So, if they win Game 3 and there's any lingering concern about McCullers' elbow, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a bullpen game in Game 4 as a precaution.

Houston's rotation depth—Javier, McCullers, Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez—is the main reason the club is now the clear World Series frontrunner, and it has Luis Garcia and José Urquidy waiting in the wings should anything happen to that quartet of starters.

The fact the 'Stros also finished eighth in runs scored during the regular season merely adds to the mountain the Yanks must climb if they're going to complete an ALCS comeback.

New York returns home for Game 3 and sends ace Gerrit Cole to the mound, which essentially makes it a must-win situation.

Saturday's game at Yankee Stadium is scheduled for a 5:07 p.m. ET first pitch on TBS.