No nerves for Astros' McCullers ahead of World Series return

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No nerves for Astros' McCullers ahead of World Series return
Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. (43) pitches in the first inning against the New York Yankees
Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. (43) pitches in the first inning against the New York Yankees
Reuters
Houston Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. (29) will make his long-awaited return to the World Series stage after missing last year's Fall Classic with a forearm injury that left him in an even more stressful role as a spectator.

McCullers, who only returned to the Astros lineup in August, will make his third start of the postseason on Monday when he takes the mound against the hosts Philadelphia Phillies with the best-of-seven World Series tied at one game apiece.

Already one of the best big-game pitchers in Astros history, McCullers is plenty familiar with high-pressure situations but much prefers the ones where he has some control over the result.

"There's always more nerves when you're watching, especially from the dugout," McCullers told reporters on Saturday after the Astros beat the Phillies 5-2.

"I think about some of the big games we've played in this park and the World Series, things like that. It's always way more, I'm always way more nervous in the dugout than when I'm outside of it."

McCullers, who was the Game Seven starter for the Astros when they won the World Series in 2017 over the Los Angeles Dodgers, is familiar with the Phillies having faced them in his final regular season start four weeks ago.

The 29-year-old right-hander has since pitched in clinching games in the American League Division Series and AL Championship Series and knows what to expect from the Phillies.

"They have guys really from the jump with (Kyle) Schwarber all the way down until at least the middle of that lineup that hit for average and hit for power," said McCullers.

"And when they get on, they can run, and then they put the ball in play. So they're a really complete team. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

And while some pitchers prefer the comforts of starting at home, McCullers is not shy about taking the mound in hostile environments, which is a good thing for him because Phillies fans are among the most raucous in Major League Baseball.

"It's really cool to pitch on the road in the postseason. I think it's when you get to experience the most raw and real atmospheres in all the game," said McCullers.

"You get to really test yourself and kind of see what you're made of when you have to go on the road, especially in a big Game Three like we're going to have on Monday."