McCullers has always been hands-on with dogs. Photo courtesy of the Lance McCullers, Jr. Foundation.
Saturday, August 13 marked the successful, long-awaited, faith-restored return of a real-life Houston hero — who happens to pitch for the Houston Astros.
Lance McCullers Jr. threw a baseball in earnest for the first time since Game 4 of last year’s American League Divisional Series. He was sidelined for 305 days with a right flexor pronator strain (a body part I never knew existed. If you can’t pull it out with a tweezer in the game Operation, it’s not part of the human anatomy.)
It took him that long, forever in baseball terms, to return to the Astros and Minute Maid Park. How’d he do?
He struck out five, allowed only two hits over six innings, received three standing ovations from 34,000 fans, and got the W in the Astros 8-0 victory over the (for some odd reason) pesky Oakland A’s on Hall of Fame Weekend.
“I was a little bit anxious before the game,” McCullers said after his win. “Everybody’s been so supportive and really have helped me get back to this point. I’m talking about the guys in the clubhouse and they were all excited for me to be back today.”
Lance back = best news for the future
With Jake Odorizzi gone and the possibility that Justin Verlander (who loves him some Nancy’s Hustle burgers) may leave after this season, McCullers’ return was good news for the Astros’ drive to the World Series this year, and the next, and the next.
He’s already carved into Houston legend for the time he threw 24 straight curveballs against the Yankees to propel the Astros to the World Series in 2017. Watch that insane performance here:
McCullers throws 24 straight curveballs to close out the AL Pennantwww.youtube.com
And, McCullers was the starting pitcher against the Dodgers in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series when the Astros won their first and only championship. As Yahoo Sports pointed out, McCullers completely owned the boys in pinstripes.
But that’s not why he’s a hero in my book.
More than a sports hero
McCullers and his wife Kara are animal lovers and they’ve put their passion into relentless action. The Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation supports local pet organizations like Houston Pets Alive and Rescued Pet Movement. The foundation’s goal is to promote pet adoption and fostering, raise awareness and donations for animal shelters and continue the journey to make Houston a no-kill community. The motto is “Protecting Pets, Creating Families.”
“Since partnering with the Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation, thousands of pets are being saved each month that otherwise didn’t have a chance. Thousands of homeless dogs and cats’ lives have been saved,” Rescued Pet Movement notes. “To date, because of LMJF, almost 60,000 homeless dogs and cats’ lives have been saved.”
Photo courtesy of the Lance McCullers, Jr. Foundation
McCullers didn’t just attach his name to the foundation and step back. As we frequently cover here, he personally shows up to help locals in need: whether it’s handing out Thanksgiving turkeys or supplying 10,000 meals to the Houston Food Bank during the pandemic. “This city has embraced me and my family,” he told us in 2019, “everywhere we go, people couldn’t be more gracious to us.”
No big surprise that he handles his foundation the same way—he hosts events, advocates tirelessly for animals, and gets his hands dirty supporting efforts to save pets lives. To donate or volunteer to his organization, visit the How to Help section on the official site.
The Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation is a donor-advised fund at Athletes and Causes, a nonprofit with federal tax exempt status and a public charity.
Photo courtesy of the Lance McCullers, Jr. Foundation
Here’s the cherry on top why I love and support his foundation. He reminds people that 75-percent of dogs available for adoption in shelters are mixed breeds. I got one of those sitting next to me right now.
Continue on CultureMap.
Luka Doncic had 41 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, and the Dallas Mavericks prevented the Houston Rockets from advancing to the quarterfinals of the NBA In-Season Tournament with a 121-115 victory on Tuesday night.
Kyrie Irving added 22 of his 27 points in the second half for the Mavericks, who had already been eliminated. Their victory allowed the New Orleans Pelicans to win Group B in the Western Conference with a 3-1 record.
Doncic fell just short of his 59th career triple-double. That would have tied him for ninth place all-time with Larry Bird. He shot 15 of 29, 3 of 10 on 3-pointers.
“Sometimes we take him for granted, and we shouldn’t,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “He’s about winning, but it just so happens he’s a walking triple-double.
”The Mavericks, who trailed by nine points in the third quarter, grabbed the lead for good at 99-98 with 6:25 to play on a drive by Irving. Leading 103-100 with 5:25 left, they went on an 8-2 run that included three free throws by Derrick Jones Jr. when he was fouled by Dillon Brooks on a 25-footer with the shot clock about to expire.
Jabari Smith Jr.’s 3-pointer with 8 seconds left pulled the Rockets within 119-115 before Dallas closed it out.
Doncic played after sustaining a low-grade sprain of his left thumb on his non-shooting hand early in Saturday’s game. He wore a wrap on the thumb.
Doncic made a hook shot from the free throw line after recovering a loose ball near the baseline.
“I’m 2 for 2 in my career on the hooks,” Doncic said, saying the other came while playing for the Slovenian national team against Sweden.
Irving shot 2 for 11 in the first half, 1 for 5 on 3-pointers, with no free-throw attempts. He was 6 for 11 in the second half, hitting 1 of 2 behind the arc, and sank all nine free throws.
“I told the team, ‘Played well enough to win, not smart enough to win,’” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “We were extra-aggressive, especially at the end of the third quarter. Had multiple players make a few dumb fouls, put Kyrie at the line and got him going when he didn’t have a lot going. You can be aggressive, obviously, but slapping somebody on a 3-point shot on the arm is an unintelligent play. It has nothing to do with aggression.”
Alperen Sengun had a season-best 31 points for the Rockets, who had six scorers in double figures. Fred VanVleet had 10 points and 12 assists.
The Rockets have lost all six of their road games this season. They went into play leading the NBA by allowing an average of 104.4 points per game.
The Mavericks didn’t use the specially built court for either of their home tournament games, citing dissatisfaction with the quality.
Rockets: Will finish a back-to-back at Denver on Wednesday.
Mavericks: Host Memphis on Friday.