THANKS, LANCE!

Lance McCullers gives lucky fans free tickets to World Series

The fiery McCullers is passionate about giving back to fans. Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Houston Astros pitcher Lance McCullers, Jr. may not be playing in the World Series, but the fiery fan favorite and local philanthropist is still very much part of the action.

McCullers, who was a pivotal and impactful piece of the 2017 Astros squad that clinched the World Series title, has been in Florida rehabbing following Tommy John surgery on his elbow. While the pitcher has been impressively returning to form, he's also been watching for Astros fans who are going above and beyond — and rewarding them.

It started with Forrest Magee, a Houstonian and a long-time Astros fan, whose hilarious (and relatable) excited reaction to a play during Game 4 of the ALCS went viral.

"I was watching the game and I was like, 'Man, it's really cool that that kid is sitting by himself in New York and repping the Astros like that,' McCullers tells CultureMap. McCullers asked for ways to contact Magee on social media, reached out to Magee on Twitter, and thanked him and invited him to a game, offering him two tickets.

Then there was the ugly moment that also went viral, when a trio of Astros fans were bullied and harassed during Game 5 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium. Cruz Arcia, Jr., Nathan Rocha, and Kristina Contreras had beer, popcorn, and other food dumped on them and were nearly assaulted by Yankees fans before security stepped in.

McCullers stepped in, too, offering Arcia two tickets to a World Series game. "As a player for the Astros our fans are an extension of our community and our family that we have in the clubhouse," says McCullers. "They're the ones who support us. So, I wanted to make it right. I wanted them to know that I appreciate them going on the road and supporting us — because that's financially expensive and can be intimidating going into opposing stadiums to support a team. I wanted to make it right for them getting their game messed up, and also wanted them to know that I appreciate them supporting us."

His generosity doesn't stop there—he's also offered a chance at four World Series tickets through his Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation. "We're helping animals, which I'm really passionate about, and giving animal enthusiasts and Astros fans a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he says.

For McCullers, the generosity is about his chance to interact with fans and give back. "Not everyone has the kind of platform that a lot of guys on our team have," he says. "I think everyone on our team uses it responsibly and for good."

The 25-year-old also sees a chance to leave his mark long after his days in an Astros uniform are over. "One day, there will be new players wearing Astros jerseys, there'll be new reporters taking to players, new guys winning games and winning homers," he says.

Continue on CultureMap for McCullers' thoughts on how the World Series will play out.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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