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October 7, 2021

Lance McCullers

Houston, Texas, USA

Minute Maid Park

Houston Astros

Postgame 1 Press Conference

Astros - 6, White Sox - 1

Q. Lance, what was the key for you today to have a dominant outing, a clean outing, and dominate the strike zone?

LANCE McCULLERS JR.: Just attacking the zone. In our pregame meeting with Maldy, we were going over all the hitters, and let Maldy do his thing and those guys. And at the end of it, we really just decided we have our plan, but we just want to be in the zone and be overwhelming in the zone.

So whatever pitch we decide to throw, we're going to try to make it quality. For the most part, maybe aside from a couple change-ups and a couple heaters, even when pitches weren't in the zone, they had purpose, and they helped me out through the rest of the game. Spectacular job by our defense, by our offense, and by the bullpen. It's good to win Game 1.

Q. How much did Maldonado throwing out Robert in the second and Correa's relay on the double play, I think in the fifth, how much did those two plays kind of catalyze you today?

LANCE McCULLERS JR.: The double play in the seventh? Well, Maldy, like I've said it like a billion times, he's unreal back there. His ability to process information, break down film, put a game plan together, and then not only that, but be able to guide me and guide our pitchers in the right way during the games.

When the lights are on, when the fans are going crazy, when the game is getting tight. He's been throwing guys out like that all year. He's fantastic back there. That was a great catch and tag by Carlos. That was one of the plays I talked about on the post-game show with Verducci just showing how good our defense was, the ability for Altuve to recognize that there was an opportunity for a double play there and get the ball to Carlos in a clean feed, and Carlos did his thing and unleashed the best arm in baseball across the infield.

So I gave him the little like holster sign after that. It was a cool, fun moment. It ended up being big for me because the next two guys got on.

Q. Lance, what does it mean to you to come out and have a performance like this in Game 1 to set a tone for the postseason for this team?

LANCE McCULLERS JR.: You get the ball in Game 1, and your team is expecting this from you. They're expecting you to come out, have energy, attack the zone, give them a chance to win.

Obvious, our offense was spectacular today, and they did a heck of a job with a tough pitcher in Lynn, one of the best in the AL this year, and also with a really tough bullpen.

We just had a really good game. Kind of everyone did their part, did their thing, and we came out with a great win. Getting another big win tomorrow, coming out with the same tone, aggressiveness and want to win is important.

Q. How much did you feed off the energy of the crowd today?

LANCE McCULLERS JR.: Yeah, it was great. The introductions while I was warming up, for me, it was really cool. That's the first time there's been an introduction type situation at home where I've been in the bullpen, and the crowd went nuts for me. It was really cool.

I think I got the chills in the bullpen and just wanted to really have a good game for the crowd and for our team. It was a good day.

Q. I was going to ask a similar question, but it's been a while for you since you had a postseason start here at home, I guess since the World Series in '17. How much were you anticipating -- as much love as you have for Houston signing here, how much were you looking forward to this kind of day?

LANCE McCULLERS JR.: Well, you're right, and that was one of the things that I said the other day during the rehab and things of that nature. I was really just looking forward to this type of moment with this type of crowd in a big game like this.

So it's been a long time. In '18, I pitched out of the bullpen knowing that I was going to have surgery as soon as the season was over. '19 wasn't here, and last year, there were no fans. So it's been years, but it was a great crowd. It was a great team win and onto tomorrow.

Q. You've obviously seen this offense win with the long ball and crooked numbers. Dusty called it stacking pennies today, bunts and Yordan tagging up. What was it like watching that?

LANCE McCULLERS JR.: That was one of the things I spoke yesterday, and I was mentioning how complete our offense is because we're not relying on a single type of game, if that makes sense. We're not relying only on home runs. We're not relying on just one or two guys to really get us going. We do it 1 through 9. And even guys come off the bench, they get in there and do it too. You saw Jake Meyers today having a great first postseason game, really giving us the spark we needed early with that knock to right field.

We have a very unique offense in the sense of that we can do it in a lot of ways. Obviously, you saw some power today. Yordan, that's one of the most crazy home runs I've seen hit here, just how high he hit it. That's deep out there in right center.

Then we put together -- the turn of the game was that slide by Altuve, though. That's probably one of better plays. Just in general, the read he got, the lead he got and the read, and then the slide, that gave us the momentum.

Q. Lance, can you talk about when you were coming off the field and heard the crowd, the kind of response you got, what that felt like?

LANCE McCULLERS JR.: No, it just felt -- I don't know how many times I can say it, but it's just a lot of hard work that has come into one defining moment, I guess, or one moment for me, hopefully one of many this postseason. But to be recognized by a crowd like that, it's a special feeling, and I'm very grateful.

Q. Lance, how big was it to have zero walks?

LANCE McCULLERS JR.: It was good. I mean, the walks -- I struck a lot of guys out typically in like the season and stuff. Walks are just a part of it. That's probably the one part of my game that I'd like to tighten up a little bit, but it is what it is. I didn't have any walks today because I had that plan, that focus, and I wanted to go into the game, I wanted to attack. Any time you can avoid having men on base just in general, it's important.

A lot of leverage counts, 1-2, 2-2 counts, where I could have gone for the strikeout or things of that nature, but I was trying to just throw good pitches for weak contacts, keep the pitch count low, try to go deep into the game, and give us the best chance.

Q. On that note, you're talking about trying to overwhelm in the zone against such a fire powered offense. If you miss in the zone, that could backfire. Why did you still think that was the best approach?

LANCE McCULLERS JR.: Sometimes you just have to go toe to toe and just see who's better on any given day. It's just one of those things where they have a fantastic offense. They have a lot of power. They have a lot of guys who hit for high average. They have a lot of guys who don't swing or chase and miss. You're talking about Moncada, Grandal, Sheets. These guys, they don't swing at balls. The righties they have in there, Anderson, batting champ, and the guys there in the middle with Robert and Eloy, it's a tough lineup to navigate.

You're either going to sit there all day and worry about this and that, how good they are, or you can just lay it on the line and go after them and see what happens.

Q. You talk about staying in the zone, and obviously your strikeouts are going to be down. How much are you better able to handle following that particular game plan now than you would have been a few years ago based on your maturity? Are you particularly proud of that today?

LANCE McCULLERS JR.: I'm much more of a pitcher now than I was in the past. I feel like I have the ability to fill up the zone with multiple pitches. I have the ability to attack different quadrants, whereas maybe in the past I really didn't. I had a curveball and a fastball, but my ability to throw changes for strikes. I mix in the cutter to lefties when needed. The sinker/slider matchup today, I could really see them trying to stay away from that slider, which opened up the sinker.

So it's just one of those things, it's that cat-and-mouse game. It's guys who I've learned from over the years. One of the guys on the other side, Dallas being one of them, on how to navigate, how to break down lineups and go after them. No one's probably helped me more than Martín Maldonado, just someone that's been huge for our team and me personally in my career.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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