Sox see late-game positive in Game 1 to take into Game 2

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

HOUSTON — For the most part, Game 1 of the American League Division Series was not one to remember for the Chicago White Sox.

The Houston Astros rocked Lance Lynn, chasing the guy who was the White Sox' best starting pitcher during the regular season before the end of the fourth inning. The bats, meanwhile, did next to nothing against Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr., suggesting the offensive inconsistencies that looked exorcized by the end of September might still linger.

It was a 6-1 romp that means the White Sox can only lose one more time in this series if they want to keep playing past next week.

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But there was a glimmer of something near game's end that had the White Sox talking about a positive they could take into Game 2 on Friday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.

After getting dominated by McCullers for six innings while the Astros built their big lead, the White Sox' offense at least existed over the final three innings, finally chasing McCullers and then stringing some base runners together against an Astros bullpen that owned a 4.06 ERA during the regular season, ranking 15th in baseball.

"I'm the kind of person that, when we lose, I like to focus on the positive," White Sox first baseman José Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "I think everybody tried their best today. We get value in fighting.


"I think in the last few innings, we showed the kind of offense we have, the kind of offense we've been carrying throughout the whole season, and hopefully we can carry that (over) for tomorrow."

The White Sox managed just one hit against McCullers in his first six innings. So three of them against the right-hander in the seventh looked like an offense explosion. They were all singles, and the first, by Abreu, was erased when Yasmani Grandal hit into a double play. But, hey, something.

That something turned into a legitimate rally in the eighth inning against Astros reliever Kendall Graveman, when after two quick outs, Tim Anderson singled, Yoán Moncada walked, and Abreu singled to break up the Astros' shutout bid. Grandal smoked a ball to center to follow, but the drive was caught to end the inning.

Even in the ninth, against Astros closer Ryan Pressly, there was something more. Luis Robert, who was on base four times Thursday, singled to start the frame. Three outs followed, of course. But, hey, something.

Certainly that can be viewed as too little too late in a lopsided game, and you wouldn't be wrong for thinking that.

But the White Sox are choosing to see it as the same kind of no-quit stuff they've shown all season, a continuation of the mentality that got them through the injuries to Robert, Grandal and Eloy Jiménez earlier in the campaign.

"We're going to play nine innings," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. "It's more fun when you've got something rolling, but you've really got to dig deep when you're not (rolling).

"We made some things happen. They made good pitches. I think it just solidifies within our club (that) we played hard nine innings. And they beat us, but that's what we do."

The White Sox can be happy that they'll send Lucas Giolito to the mound in Game 2 in an effort to slow down a dangerous Astros lineup. Giolito has had a terrific second half, one that started with a dominant performance against these Astros, not to mention an outstanding playoff start under his belt from last fall and a history of success at Minute Maid Park.

Perhaps even more, though, the White Sox can be happy about what they did against the Astros' relief corps. Sure, it was only one run. But if they're able to chase Game 2 starter Framber Valdez a little quicker than they did McCullers, they can get more chances against the Astros' bullpen Friday.

It's only one game, of course. But in a best-of-five series, that one game means a whole lot more than it does during the regular season. The point is, thought, that one game does not necessarily write the script for the entire series. And we'll see how the White Sox respond as they continue to try to take down what has been an elite October baseball team for the last several years.


"You'd like to have it. It's definitely an edge," La Russa said about the Astros winning 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."

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