HOUSTON – Trading for right-hander Lance Lynn this winter was a win-now move for the White Sox. Now, they’re looking for a win out of him in Game 1 of American League Division Series.
Manager Tony La Russa announced on Tuesday that Lynn will be the White Sox’ starter Thursday at Minute Maid Park. Right-hander Lucas Giolito will take the ball Friday in Game 2. La Russa said he’s waiting to see how the first two games play out before announcing the White Sox’ starter for Game 3, but Dylan Cease is a candidate.
“The better you pitch and defend, the less you have to score,” La Russa said. “That's a real challenge because they (the Astros) have an outstanding lineup. But we don't really concede that because we think we have an outstanding lineup. … First priority is to get some outs and not let them score as much and then use our offensive talent to break through as often as we can.”
Lynn (11-6, 2.69 ERA) not only has made an impression in his first year with the White Sox, earning his first All-Star nod since 2012 with an AL-best 1.99 ERA at the break, but he sports the most playoff experience of the White Sox’ starting pitchers.
The big righty has made 26 playoff appearances over six different years. He won a World Series with the Cardinals in 2011, with La Russa as manager.
“When I had Tony, I was a rookie, and I was out of the bullpen,” Lynn said. “So, it's been ten years, and for me to have this opportunity with him is pretty special because he's -- I joked the other day, he's the only manager to ever send me down. So, we have that going for us.”
Lynn struggled against the Astros in the regular season, giving up six runs in four innings when he faced them at Minute Maid Park in mid-June. But White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal grinned when talking this week about the Astros’ approach against Lynn.
“(If) they were planning on doing that this time around, maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t,” he said. “We’ll see.”
Lynn and Grandal are well into game-planning for the rematch.
“You do all the research,” Lynn said, “and you just know that you go out there and compete and make pitches, make quality pitches, and you can't give them anything because if you give them anything, they have a tendency to run with it and make big innings.
“Got to make it pitch by pitch and make it a quality pitch one at a time and keep that simple, and that's what we're going to try to do.”
Lefty Carlos Rodón remains the unknown in the White Sox starting rotation. La Russa said Wednesday afternoon that the White Sox were “still waiting to see Carlos' availability.” Rosters for the series are due Thursday morning.
Either way, the White Sox have raved about Cease’s development this year (13-7, 3.91 ERA), making him a strong option for Game 3. The if-necessary Game 4 is scheduled for Monday, meaning Lynn is a candidate on short rest.
“If you've got a guy that has pitches and competes and that's your best option, he can win,” La Russa said, “which means the first game pitcher can pitch Game 4 for either side.”
Lynn worked through a minor back issue a week and a half ago, after a quick stint on the 10-day IL (right knee inflammation) starting in late August. But he didn’t seem concerned about either of those ailments after his last start of the regular season.
"The only thing that really matters is I'm feeling as healthy as I possibly can,” Lynn said when asked to grade his last outing before the playoffs. “So, it's an A. We're ready to rock."
Asked on Wednesday if he’d be prepared to start Game 4 if called upon, Lynn had a straightforward answer: “Yeah.”