Chas McCormick hits two home runs in Astros' win over Guardians
Jul 21, 2023
HOUSTON -- Chas McCormick is pretty upfront about where he struggled last year: against right-handers and against sliders.
“I will say I sucked last year with offspeed, and I get a ton of sliders this year,” McCormick said.
But McCormick’s turned the corner in both departments. And on Wednesday afternoon, he showed off the progress he’s made. The center fielder lofted two high home runs off sliders from right-handed pitchers -- his third multihomer game of his career -- to power the Astros to a 3-2 win over the Guardians at Minute Maid Park.
His 2-for-3 day raised his OPS to .922 -- the highest among all center fielders in the Majors.
“He had an incredible month, he’s had an incredible season so far and today he was huge for us driving in all three runs,” said Alex Bregman, who went 2-for-2 with two walks. “He’s been a big difference maker for our team.”
It’s all part of an impressive stretch for McCormick, who engineered the best month of his career at the plate in July, slashing .351/.440/.688. The 28-year-old started the year splitting time in the outfield with Jake Meyers and Corey Julks.
But since a huge bases-clearing triple on July 2, McCormick’s not only been the clear option in center, he’s also been one of the best hitters in baseball. His first multihomer game of 2023 came on July 16. He followed it a week later with a six-RBI night on July 24 in the “win of the year” against Texas.
“Success breeds confidence, and the more confidence you got -- hey man, we’ll take it,” manager Dusty Baker said.
The Astros have surged over that same stretch. Wednesday’s finale win gave the club a series sweep, a 12-6 record since the All-Star break and a share of the American League West lead with the Rangers, who face the White Sox on Wednesday night.
McCormick has done it by improving his weaknesses. In 2022, he had a .972 OPS against lefties and a .645 OPS against righties. But this season, McCormick has a 1.053 OPS against lefties and an .867 OPS against righties.
“He’s learned how to hit the inside pitch,” Baker said. “They were throwing Chas in, and now, he’s made some adjustments.”
McCormick has similarly improved against breaking balls this year. He’s always been a prolific fastball hitter -- according to Statcast’s run value metric, which measures results on batted balls against specific pitches, McCormick is the third-best four-seam fastball hitter in the Majors.
But last year, he struggled mightily against breaking balls, with a .119 batting average and .179 slugging percentage against sliders. He mentioned he hits off a pitching machine against sliders and curveballs every single day, and it’s paid off.
McCormick entered Wednesday hitting .280 with a .440 slugging percentage against sliders.
“[I’m] just picking out, seeing a better sight. Making sure I’m looking for the right spot, so when a slider breaks down the plate or middle-away, I can put a good swing on it,” McCormick said.
McCormick knows there’s still room to improve.
But he’s done more than enough to cement his position in center field after battling with Jose Siri for playing time last season and Meyers this season. He’s heard his name in Trade Deadline rumors both years as a result, but now he’s settling in.
“Yeah, it was,” McCormick said when asked if the Trade Deadline weighed on his mind. “It weighs a lot on me every year. The Deadline is crazy, but you can’t really control any of that. I don’t try to worry about [being traded] coming up to the Deadline, but it is tough, I’m not going to lie, coming into it a couple of days out. … But I’m happy to be here and I’m happy to stay.”
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