McCullers’ solid outing marred by inefficiency

HOUSTON — Through two starts this season — both against the A’s — Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr.’s pitching lines have been nearly identical. Each time he’s gone five innings and allowed two hits, one run and three walks. And each time, an extended inning has cost him a chance to work deeper into the game.

McCullers, who had a 33-pitch first inning en route to a 95-pitch effort in his first start of the season Saturday in Oakland, was pulled after throwing 88 pitches in the Astros’ 6-2 loss to the A’s on Friday night at Minute Maid Park. The only run McCullers allowed was on a leadoff homer to Jed Lowrie in the fourth.

It was in the fourth that McCullers threw 32 pitches, including a pair of walks and an error by shortstop Carlos Correa on a potential double-play ball. That kept the frame going, but McCullers pitched out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam by getting a great diving stop from first baseman Yuli Gurriel to get a forceout at the plate and then striking out Aramis Garcia.

“I worked really hard in between starts and put myself in a position physically where I really feel like I have a solid 105 [pitches], 110 in me,” McCullers said. “I understand the game plan and matching up and all that kind of stuff, but I always feel like, ‘Man, I really had at least one more solid inning…

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