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Sox show what fueled World Series expectations in Game 3 win

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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Aaron Bummer's words from the spring have been thrown back at him, in snarky tweet form, over and over again.

In the most important game of the Chicago White Sox' season, he backed them up.

Bummer wasn't the only member of the South Side bullpen predicting big things during spring training. He's the one, though, who said the relief corps wanted to give the team a spotless record — specifically 90-0 — with a late lead.

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"I don't expect to lose a game if we're leading after the fifth inning," he said in March. "I really think that the talent in our bullpen is that good, to where we should be able to go out there and hold leads for our starters, regardless of the score.

"That's kind of our goal, is preserve leads, keep us in games that matter."

That's obviously not how it played out, the regular season — and Bummer's, in particular — an up-and-down one for the bullpen, even after the trade-deadline bolstering that came in the form of Craig Kimbrel and Ryan Tepera.

But Sunday night, with the White Sox facing elimination, the bullpen was sensational. And so was the offense that had been so hit-and-miss during the regular season. And so was the relentlessness, the "step on their throats" mindset Tim Anderson talked about before the season.

 

It wasn't exactly how Rick Hahn & Co. drew things up — not with Dylan Cease getting just five outs in a third consecutive shockingly brief outing by a White Sox starting pitcher in this American League Division Series — but it brought to mind all the reasons there was so much justified hype that this team could win a World Series.

That was the White Sox team that was expected.

After collecting nothing but singles in the series' first two games in Houston, the White Sox offense came to life Sunday, some long awaited slugging unsurprisingly making for more crooked numbers on the scoreboard. Grandal and Leury García broke the "singles only" trend with a pair of home runs to power an exhilarating comeback from an early 5-1 deficit. Andrew Vaughn and García added back-to-back RBI doubles with two outs in the bottom of the eighth.

"I mean, (the win) says a lot," White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal said. "I told (Michael Kopech), 'I've been here before. We're going to come back, and we're going to win it.' I don't think he really believed me until he saw that we actually came back.

"We've had plenty of games during the year where we've been down early by a lot of runs and we've been able to come back and take the lead, so today was no different."

The insurance came in the form of a three-run eighth inning that expanded the White Sox' lead from three to six, the kind of pouring on that Anderson was envisioning when he said this in February:

"We need that dog in us. We need some, 'Let’s go out here and whoop these m-----f-----s.' We need that type of attitude. ... 'Let's go out here and whoop 'em.' It might be 10-0 in the first, let's keep going. That type of winning, not just feel around and see what happens. From the first inning, let's go."

But nothing was more impressive than that effort from the bullpen.

Kopech matched the three runs Cease gave up but managed to record some valuable outs. Tepera turned heads by retiring all six batters he faced in the fifth and sixth innings. Bummer was electric in the seventh and eighth, retiring all five he faced and striking out four of them. Kimbrel picked up some redemption after a troublesome outing in Game 2 by finishing off the eighth. And Liam Hendriks, the closer paid big free-agent bucks for this exact moment, did his dominant, screaming thing with a 1-2-3 ninth.

The White Sox' bullpen retired the final 15 Astros hitters they faced, no small feat against a lineup that plated 15 runs in Games 1 and 2 and ranked as one of baseball's best during the regular season. Not only did it help the White Sox extend their season Sunday, the relief corps showed it can continue to be quite the weapon in another must-win contest Monday and, the team hopes, moving forward.

 

"I was traded over here from the Cubs and was brought here to win a championship and be a part of a great bullpen," Tepera said. "We have some good arms down there, and give credit to Kopech and Bummer tonight. Man, they really threw the ball well, especially Bummer. You know, he was lights out. That was a big help.

"All I can say really is it was a lot of fun."

Yes, that was the White Sox team that was expected out there Sunday night.

And if that team can show up twice more in the next three days, they can keep showing those preseason World Series dreams were indeed realistic.

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