One game in, second game still needed to determine White Sox’s chances

The good news is that the White Sox only have to win one out of two in Houston in order to tilt the five-game series in their favor. They lost the game that looked like a bad matchup on paper, and now the duel that looks more favorable awaits them. Framber Valdez is no pushover, as Sox hitters learned on June 19. But they can also rough him up, as they learned on July 18. They’ve hit 25 percent of the homers he’s allowed on the year, and in less than 10 percent of the innings he’s thrown. Lucas Giolito has been much harder for the Astros to solve.

The tricky part is getting the job done, but that’s why we watch, and that’s why advertisers pay to have their products shown alongside it, and sometimes over a Yasmani Grandal double play if they’re lucky.

Lance Lynn got beat because his strength runs headfirst into the strength of the Houston Astros, and he’s finding it damned difficult to win such a fight one-on-nine. It’s a lot easier to beat those odds when, like Lance McCullers Jr., your strength slots right into an opponent’s chief weakness. The mounds were the same height, but McCullers held the high ground.

There’s evidence that McCullers is the deciding factor, because the Sox produced all four of their 100-mph batted balls over the last three innings. Now it’s their job to do what they can to avoid seeing him again, at least on full rest.

There are items to revisit. Lynn might want to throw more sliders, curves and changeups, which shouldn’t be hard since 74 of his 76 pitches were fastballs. Three non-heaters would suffice. And speaking of three, Tony La Russa might want to more strictly adhere to TTOP for the third time through, especially when the plate appearances are condensed within the first four innings. Then again, Garrett Crochet entered later in the game to face Michael Brantley with two outs, and Brantley singled to the left side as if to show that the fourth inning might not have been so simple to solve.

The White Sox are a team that’s built on starting pitching, and that starting pitching has to show up more often than not to have a real chance at this thing. The offense is OK, but vulnerable. The bullpen is fine, but it’s not one that has a whole lot of experience jumping into high-leverage situations early in the game. Moreover, they’re staring at wholestaff efforts to get through Games 3 and 4, as Lynn on short rest wouldn’t seem to be an answer for the latter. If the chief argument over the strategy is whether the staff leader should’ve been pulled in the fourth inning in order to stand a better chance at preserving a three-run deficit, it’s safe to say the players lost it.

It’s just as easy to imagine the players finding it, which is why I’m treating the first two games as a package deal. If enough Sox can do their jobs this afternoon, they can leave Houston with a win and an instructive loss, which would be an acceptable outcome in a five-game series between evenly matched opponents. There isn’t a specific need to panic, mostly because if the Sox drop today’s game, you’ll have the next 50 hours free to devote to terror.

(Photo by Troy Taormina / USA TODAY Sports)

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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knoxfire30

If you are gonna have a clunker game it may as well be when their ace has his good stuff.

Aside from 3 TLR managerial choices that I found confusing, the sox weren’t winning game 1 anyway with what McCullers had going. Doesn’t make much difference in how close the game was, a loss is a loss.

Gio gets game 2 and everything can still work out. Sox may have the best home field advantage in baseball just get it to 1-1 steal home field and we are fine.

HallofFrank

Yeah, it was a terrible matchup. I’m still feeling good about today.

Maybe it’s delusion, but the last few innings gave me hope. I feared the Sox were going to get crushed while burning a few bullpen arms while the Astros cruised with their mop-up men. As it turns out, the Sox only used possibly their 3 worse relievers (apologies to Crochet), while the Astros’ two best both threw 20+ pitches. It’s a positive sign that both (a) the Sox three guys tamed the Astros offense and (b) the Sox looked decent against Graveman and Pressley. It felt like the momentum shifted a bit – but it’s largely up to Gio to keep that up.

ParisSox

This is why I wasn’t too concerned about leaving Lynn in a little longer. Didn’t feel like we were going to get to McCullers, who was throwing darts to impossible to hit locations. Stretch out Lynn a bit to not overtax the bullpen in the first game.

Dusty however – bringing in his closer with a 5 run lead? Thanks for the free looks at him for future games. That made no sense to me.

roke1960

World Series rings- LaRussa 3, Dusty 0. That’s why Dusty brought his closer in a 5-run game.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

The Sox have never overcome a 2 game deficit in the playoffs. Also only at one point this year (Aug 16-18) did they win three straight games against a team that finished above 0.500.

What I’m saying is win game 2, plz.

roke1960

Yes, it will be tough to take 3 straight against the Astros. They absolutely need to jump on Valdez early, because if they don’t the pressure will just get greater and greater. I’m sure their realistic goal was to come in and get one of two. Like Jim said, if Giolito and enough of the hitters do their job, it will be mission accomplished.

Root Cause

I fail to see the significance of historical data. Players and coaches are different. Even if they were identical, the law of averages would eventually tip the scales.

As for beating teams over .500, I don’t the number but our starters missed a huge number of games. And those were impact players. Throw out the last 6 weeks as wins were not the objective. Getting healthy and getting the rust off those coming back from IL was the priority.

I don’t know if we will win or lose but we have multiple ways of winning. We don’t need everyone’s best game to beat these guys. We do need everyone to play well and have a few step up. They have done that about 93 times this year, they can do it 3 more.

Jason

With the extra time to prepare, I was still hoping to see better at bats against McCullers. That reduces my confidence in this series / playoff run more than Lynn’s results.

Still, lets hope for a W tonight so Comiskey can be truly rocking from the first pitch Sunday night.

Jason

Actually the worst offender I was thinking of was after McCullers left. Most of McCullers abs seemed helped by a generous strike zone, putting the Sox in the hole early and then expanding their zone in protect mode.

But an example, Sheets was up with 2 on, 2 out in the 7th and worked a 2-0 count. He then took a 93 mph fastball right down the heart of the plate, then swung on a breaking ball that started in and stayed well inside, then in defensive mode swung on a 2-2 pitch well outside that he weakly hit to the right side.

He had been avoiding at bats like this recently, so hopefully we can chalk it up to first game jitters.

MrStealYoBase

It sucks but it was still probably their best option to more or less concede Game 1 with Lynn after they found out McCullers was starting. The Sox offense figuring it out against him and Lynn figuring it out against Houston’s offense seemed to have about the same chance of happening: which was low.

If it was a wildcard game I’m sure Gio would have gotten the nod.

Take the L, but put yourselves in better position in the series than you would have if Gio pitched yesterday, the Sox still scored 1 run and lost, and they’d have to choose between Lynn or road Cease for Game 2.

vanillablue

can’t concede anything at this point. they’re going to have to beat mccullers to win this series.

Right Size Wrong Shape

He’s going to pitch three times in a 5 game series?

As Cirensica

Robert hitting 2nd today. Good move. The rest is pretty much the same with Sheets/Vaughn playing the handedness game

Last edited 10 months ago by As Cirensica
As Cirensica

Abreu no longer DHing

roke1960

I like that lineup.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I wonder if Sheets would have got the start over Vaughn if he’d had a decent Game 1. I think Valdez is more effective against righties.

Root Cause

I think you are right, TLR has used anyone that gets hot until they’re not. I can’t believe it would have taken much to bump Vaughn if Sheets had had a good game last night. Right now it’s plug and play for those two until the power comes on.

Marty34

I would hope not. Yes, Vaughn has struggled, but rolling the dice on his pedigree as opposed to Sheets’ is the only call really.

Right Size Wrong Shape

They didn’t make that call yesterday. And we’re not placing bets on their career stats, we’re talking about one game. I’m fine with playing Vaughn today, but if Sheets had gone 2 for 4 yesterday I’d be tempted to leave him in there.

Marty34

Vaughn didn’t play because of McCullers slider which was the right call. Kimbrel in mop up situations?

Right Size Wrong Shape

Valdez’s curveball has been just as effective against righties. But whatever, I’d probably roll with Vaughn today too.

a-t

That was McCullers’ first start ALL YEAR where he didn’t walk a batter— his walk rate is the highest of any qualified starter, a full 1.5% clear of second-place Dylan Cease. His command and stuff was great, and he kept locating that slider about 3 inches down and away to righties and and getting it called a strike anyways. That’s just too much to deal with.

My main criticism of the offense is that it seemed like they let McCullers get away with rather a lot of first-pitch fastballs in very hittable locations, and then getting doused with breaking ball after breaking ball once they fell behind. Perhaps trying to run up his pitch count… rather unsuccessfully.

If there is a game 5, I really really hope they don’t run out Lynn again, assuming Gio pitches well today.

Right Size Wrong Shape

He also took advantage of a wide strike zone. Not using it as an excuse as it looked wide for both teams, but it definitely favored a guy like McCullers over someone who just consistently attacks the zone like Lynn (and walks got Lynn in trouble anyway).