How Sox will attempt to avoid elimination in ALDS Game 3

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

The Chicago White Sox played two games in Texas and suffered two lopsided losses.

Their run total was tripled by the Houston Astros. They saw their top two starting pitchers chased early. They didn't pick up an extra-base hit.

While the Astros have looked the superior team in grabbing a 2-0 lead in the American League Division Series and sending the White Sox to the brink of elimination, the South Siders believe now it's their turn to doll out some punishment.

RELATED: What’s next for White Sox in Game 3: ‘It ain’t over’

"I think yesterday was yesterday, and that's in the past. We have to worry about tomorrow and winning," White Sox starting pitcher Carlos Rodón said Saturday. "You kind of have to (have that mentality), especially when you are down 0-2. That's the mindset you have to have in that situation.

"Our backs are against the wall. We just lost two games in a hard place to play. Now we get to come home and play at home, and they get to see what it's like to battle our crowd."

Regardless of how much of a home-field advantage the black-clad Guaranteed Rate Field crowd can provide Sunday night, though, the White Sox are feeling confident heading into a must-win Game 3. That's the feeling that Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito transmitted in the immediate aftermath of Game 2 on Friday, and it's how the team was feeling a day later.


The way things went in the two losses in Houston might have looked calamitous from the outside, but the White Sox have not been ones to declare the sky falling at any point during their division-championship campaign, even when things indeed look pretty world-ending. They didn't balk at significant injuries to half their starting lineup. They didn't blink at a wave of injuries in the regular season's final month. They didn't put any stock into their record against other contending teams.

And in the process, they won a whole bunch of games.

A daily focus on winning is what helped the White Sox get this far. The attitude that Anderson infused into this club from Day 1 has persisted. And the key to avoiding a three-game exit for a second straight October? Dancing with the date that brought 'em.

"We have to keep playing the way that we've been playing all season," White Sox center fielder Luis Robert said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "Tomorrow, we'll have to find a way to win the game. I don't know what way that is, but we have to find a way to win the game and try to keep it alive for us."

But as anyone who watched Games 1 and 2 can affirm, that's easier said than done.

The Astros have looked every bit the part of championship contenders, making no mistakes and striking when the White Sox have. The defense has been flawless. The offense has been explosive. The pitching has held the White Sox' bats to nothing but singles.

So how do the White Sox flip the script in Game 3?

It might be by feeding off the win-or-go-home situation they find themselves in.

"If that doesn't bring out the best in you, I don't know what will," White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease said. "We're not sitting here mopey or anything. We have to do everything we can to perform and execute at a high level. And obviously, the pressure is going to be high, but that's the playoffs and that's everything we've been preparing for.

"So I think we're more excited than anything else."

Cease will be the tone-setter, getting the start with his team's season on the line. He's earned the nod, certainly, with what he's done this year, and the White Sox will be counting on his most impressive attribute — the 226 strikeouts that led the team and ranked seventh in the major leagues — to help slow down a relentless Astros offense, one that struck out fewer times than almost anybody in the game during the regular season.

"Obviously, they've got a great lineup," Cease said. "To me, it just comes down to: If I execute pitches, more times than not, good things happen. I'm not going to go in there trying to get a swing and miss every pitch. I'm going to try to execute pitches and be aggressive and really just control everything that I can control, and not worry about anything else."


But Cease is only one man in a team game, of course. When it comes to the team as a whole, the White Sox will try to use how they played in Game 2 to boost themselves into better fortunes in Game 3. If Game 1 was over early, certainly Game 2 was more competitive. That didn't have any impact on the final score, with both games featuring five-run deficits. But more spirited play, especially when it came to finding success against Astros pitching, was on display Friday in Houston.

Whether fans want to buy stock in that reason for hope or not, the White Sox are going to try to apply the positives.

"We played a good game yesterday," Robert said. "Now it's just to keep playing hard. Try to go out tomorrow and do our best and see if we can get a better outcome."

"If we play just as hard as we did yesterday," La Russa said, "we'll have a great chance tomorrow."

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