The Astros entered Game 3 of the 2022 World Series with high expectations, relying on normally effective starter Lance McCullers.
But instead of continuing the trend of elite Astros pitching, Game 3 resulted in resounding victory for the home Phillies. McCullers lasted just 4.2 innings, giving up an astonishing World Series record five home runs in the process.
Phillies hitters were consistently launching home runs in ways that reminded those watching of the 2017 Astros. They, of course, knew what pitches were coming.
During Game 3, some viewers picked up on details that seemed to imply the Phillies knew what was coming too. Far from an elaborate sign stealing operation however, it appeared as though McCullers was tipping his pitches:
Sure enough, TV cameras caught Phillies star Bryce Harper talking to third baseman Alec Bohm just before Bohm launched a massive home run.
This was a far cry from Game 2, when starter Framber Valdez was so effective in shutting down the Phillies lineup that he faced the opposite type of accusation:
McCullers Was Far From Himself
For his part, McCullers entirely denied that he was tipping.
According to ESPN, he said the poor results had nothing to do with his leg kick. “This has nothing to do with tipping… Listen, I am who I am. I’m going to throw a lot of off-speed,” McCullers said. “Everyone knows that.”
His pitching coach, Joshua Miller, also denied that tipping played a role, saying they check into it frequently:
“We didn’t identify anything specific today,” Miller said. “It’s something that we always monitor and look into.”
In the playoffs it’s often hard to tell if something is just part of the inherent randomness of a one game sample. Pitchers often have off nights if you slice up the season into ever smaller increments.
With the spotlight on though, every movement is magnified in importance.
Regardless, the Astros now find themselves just two losses away from a second-consecutive World Series defeat.