HOUSTON – White Sox center fielder Luis Robert strode to his left, on an angle toward in the infield dirt, but there was no way he could get to the ground ball in time to prevent the inevitable: a comfortable Astros lead.
In what would become a 6-1 Astros victory against the White Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, that two-run single from Houston outfielder Michael Brantley was the final blow to White Sox starter Lance Lynn. He left the game after giving up five runs in 3 2/3 innings.
The lineup that had pummeled Lynn in the regular season the last time he took the mound at Minute Maid Park, that time scoring six runs off him in four innings, again set the tone in Houston on Thursday.
The trouble for Lynn on Thursday began in the second inning, when the right-hander walked Astros cleanup hitter Yordan Álvarez to lead off the frame. Then, Carlos Correa’s single through the right side of the infield – the first hit of the game – moved Álvarez to third base.
Astros center fielder Jake Meyers stepped up to the plate with two outs and drove a fastball on the inside corner into right field, driving in Álvarez and giving the Astros a 1-0 lead.
Houston followed the same playbook to start the next inning, drawing a leadoff walk. In classic small-ball fashion, Michael Brantley moved leadoff José Altuve to second on a sac bunt. Altuve took third on a pitch in the dirt and scored on a fielder’s choice. Álvarez kept the rally going with an RBI double off the wall in left center.
White Sox manager Tony La Russa called to the bullpen to have long reliever Reynaldo López start warming up during the third inning, but the skipper sent Lynn back out to the mound for the fourth.
The Astros lineup only gained momentum. Meyers and Altuve each logged base hits to put runners on second and third for Brantley. Then, he hit a sharp ground ball into right-center field.
Myers crossed the plate and looked over his right shoulder to see where Brantley’s single had ended up. Meyers needed just a glance to know Altuve had plenty of time to make it home. Myers raised both hands over his head to tell him he was in standing up.
The Astros took a 5-0 lead, one that proved insurmountable for the White Sox offense, quieted by Astros starter Lance McCullers.