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What's next after Sox lose Game 1 of ALDS to Astros

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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HOUSTON — The Chicago White Sox absolutely wanted to win Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

But this is a best-of-fiver, not a single-elimination type thing. So there are more games to play, and the South Siders aren't out of this yet, no matter how much the first game this October in Houston looked like their June trip to the Lone Star State.

RELATED: October looks a lot like June as Sox get thumped by Astros

"You'd like to have it. It's definitely an edge," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said after his team's 6-1 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 1. "I can give you a couple times we lost the first game, like 2011 (when his St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series), and came back and did all right.

"You've got to win three, but every one you get is valuable. And the first opportunity, we definitely wanted it, and they got it. We'll be ready to compete tomorrow."

So let's talk about tomorrow, when the White Sox take on the Astros in Game 2 of this ALDS, looking to even things up.

Can Lucas Giolito play savior for the White Sox?

There's seemingly a lot riding on Giolito's performance in Game 2 after rotation-mate Lance Lynn was knocked around by the Astros in Game 1. Lynn struggled Thursday, making for a series of consecutive troublesome outings at Minute Maid Park, including one from earlier this season.

 

The bad news for Giolito and the White Sox is that the Astros are not expected to fall victim to nine separate misfortunes, like Mr. Burns' All Stars, before Friday afternoon. This is a very, very good offensive team that posted the second highest OPS in baseball during the regular season and showed it Thursday against Lynn, chasing him before the end of the fourth inning.

The good news for the White Sox is that Giolito's history is more favorable to a matchup with these Astros. He didn't pitch against them in June but dominated them when they visited the South Side in July. He hasn't pitched in this ballpark since 2019, but that was a complete-game shutout. And then there's his lone career playoff start, in which he showed he could handle the big stage by taking a perfect-game bid into the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics last fall.

The Astros might not stop swinging their hot bats, but Giolito is the guy the White Sox want on the mound to play stopper after the Game 1 loss.

Can the White Sox' bats wake up?

It seemed the season-long inconsistencies that plagued the South Side offense throughout the regular season were exorcized in the final week, when they strung together six straight wins and averaged 6.5 runs a game in those half dozen victories.

But then came Game 1 and Lance McCullers Jr., who shut down the White Sox for 6.2 innings, allowing nothing in the run column and only four singles, three of which came in his final inning of work.

The good news for the White Sox is they won't have to face McCullers again in Game 2, even if they might have to see him again before the end of this series. The bad news, though, is that they're hardly out of the woods in the opposing-starting-pitcher department. Game 2 starter Framber Valdez actually posted a lower ERA than McCullers did during the regular season.

The key for the White Sox, though, will be getting to Valdez early enough to chase him and start swinging against the Astros' middling bullpen. With those three hits against McCullers in the seventh Thursday, they brought an end to his day and saw success against Astros relievers in the final innings. That's a bright spot the White Sox are hoping to turn into a winning strategy Friday.

Can Luis Robert come up big?

The White Sox' center fielder spent the final couple months of the regular season playing MVP-caliber ball. And though the White Sox didn't get much going offensively in Game 1, he was on base four times, hit by a pitch, using his speed to reach on an error and picking up a pair of base hits.

 

Robert could provide the spark of sparks if he can turn getting on base into getting some bigger, louder hits, which obviously he's capable of doing. He's capable of swinging the best bat on the team in the postseason, and starting that in Game 2 would be an obvious boost for a team looking for offense.

Robert, too, is a "six-tool player," you'll remember from La Russa's preseason comments. That means he can break a game open in a variety of ways. And just like he tried to steal a base in Game 1, he could get things going with his legs. Or he could make a run-saving play in center field. Or he could just uncork a 487-foot home run like he did last postseason in Oakland.

The guy is a game-changer. And the White Sox could really use someone to change the game Friday.

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