The ALDS – Astros vs. White Sox

Starting Thursday, the Astros meet the White Sox in a best out of five ALDS
with the first two games in Minute Maid Park. So, what do you need to know…

Playoff History. The only previous postseason meeting of
the two teams was historical and painful for the Astros. They met in 2005 in
the first World Series appearance for the Astros since their inception in 1962.
This was the first appearance for the Sox since 1959, and they had not won a
World Series since 1917. The dear Commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, did not
allow the Astros to close their roof for the series which took away a
psychological advantage from the team. The series was a tortuous four-game
sweep for the White Sox included two one-run losses (including a
walk-off and a 1-0 loss) and two – two-run losses (including a 14 inning heart
breaker).

Recent History. In June, the Astros swept four games
from the White Sox at Minute Maid – outscoring the Pale Hose 27-8. That series
brought the Astros from second place to a first-place tie in the division. They
took over the first place the next day and never trailed the rest of the season. In
mid-July, the Astros visited Chicago, took the first game behind Lance
McCullers and then booted the next two.

General View. Even though the White Sox ended up at 93-69,
two games behind the Astros, they pretty much coasted to their division title.
They ended up 13 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central where
Chicago was the only team that ended up above .500. The Astros had to sweat out
a late-season charge by the Seattle Mariners but hung on with a final 5 game
lead in the West.

Health. The Astros, as far as their active roster goes, are
as healthy as they’ve been all season. Folks like Pedro Baez and Rafael Montero
won’t be around for the playoffs (nor Justin Verlander). Jose Siri‘s last-minute pinkie injury and his ongoing on-field problems probably have moved him
out of any consideration for the early playoffs. The other part to this is the
walking wounded. Zack Greinke came off of the IL and was not good before or
after the IL. Alex Bregman looks like a 2020 repeat when he was trying to
play through an injury and failed. Michael Brantley has not hit
like Michael Brantley in two months, and one has to wonder how damaged he is.

The White Sox may be in even better shape as they have Eloy Jimenez, Luis
Robert, Yasmani Grandal and Tim Anderson all back who missed time over the year, including some of the matchups with the Astros. Their biggest concern is the
health of Carlos Rodon, who has pitched but not a lot of very deep down the
stretch. Slugger Jose Abreu missed the last game of the season with a non-COVID
injury but is not expected to miss time. The Sox are a very good and very
healthy team heading into the postseason.

Managers. Tony LaRussa, who turned 77 on Monday, is on his
second shift with the White Sox in his 36th season as a manager as he was a
surprising hire for the dugout after nin years away from the field. He has led
his teams to six World Series, winning three of them, two with the Cardinals
and one with the A’s. That spry 72-year-old youngster, Dusty Baker, has led five
different teams to division titles in his 24 seasons as a major league manager,
the Giants, Cubs, Reds, Nats and Astros. However, only one of his teams reached
the World Series, the 2002 Giants, and they lost. This may be the oldest
managerial matchup in playoff history.

Perhaps it is right to have the septuagenarians duke it out in someday games…..

Hitting. The Astros, with such hitters as Kyle Tucker,
Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and
Michael Brantley are the top offense in the majors. They lead in runs/game
(5.33), BA (.267), OBP (.339) and are second in OPS (.783), right behind the
Blue Jays. The White Sox are a step behind with a top 5 offense in the AL with
4.91 runs/game, .256 BA, .336 OBP and .758 OPS. Having Robert, Grandal, Jimenez
and Anderson back and healthy along with Abreu gives the White Sox a very good
lineup, but on paper, not as good as the Astros. Of course, this may come down
to pitching as much as offense.

Starting Pitching. The White Sox and Astros are nose to
nose on starting pitching, with the Sox having a very slight advantage. A White
Sox 4 man playoff rotation would likely be Rodon, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease and
Lucas Giolito with former Astro Dallas Keuchel and his 5+ ERA missing out. The
Astros rotation is a little tougher to figure, but a good guess is that it
would be Lance McCullers, Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, and JoseZackJake
Urgreinkizzi. Expect the Astros to fall back on their habit of tandeming
pitchers in some games in the playoffs.

Relief Pitching. The White Sox bullpen also has a slight
advantage over the Astros in ERA and a more considerable advantage in saves. The Astros
lean on closer Ryan Pressly and setup man Kendall Graveman, neither of whom
come into the postseason on an upward arc. Ryan Stanek and, surprisingly, the two
lefties Blake Taylor and Brooks Raley, go into the postseason on a roll. The
unknown here is who will drop down from the starting rotation for the Astros and
how they will warm up to that role. The Sox bullpen is led by a familiar face
in former A’s closer Liam Hendriks backed up by former Red Sox closer Craig
Kimbrel, who has not pitched well this season. Behind them is a quartet of
solid arms in Garrett Crochet, Aaron Bummer, Jose Ruiz and Michael Kopech. Will
Dallas Keuchel be an X-factor down there?

Prediction. Astros in 5. Two things – never get involved
in a land war in Asia. Second, don’t bet against this modern version of the
Astros in a first-round playoff series.

69 comments on “The ALDS – Astros vs. White Sox

  1. As honest as I can be:
    * I miss a healthy Justin Verlander starting game 1 and a healthy LMJ starting game 2.
    * Having Maldonado in the nine hole has been equal to having a pitcher there all year.
    * Getting production out of the CF position is very important for the Astros in this series.
    * I hope Alex Bregman goes through his notes and finds out what he did between the end of 2018 and the beginning of ST of 2019. Then, I hope he does that during this coming offseason.
    * The Correa hype has begun and I hope his playoff performance drives it into the stratosphere.
    * Back in 2005, the Astros had a reputation for not hitting in the playoffs. I’m hoping their batting shines bright in this series.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Of course the article points out that Steve Chilcott and Brien Taylor were the only prior number one overall picks to not make it to the big leagues before this retirement. Assuming he stays retired that will make three, but the interesting part is that the Astros actually drafted someone else number one overall the year before who retired in February, 2018…but has since returned at pitched at AAA this year for Philly.

      Like

    • After all these years, it appears the only loser was Aiken himself. The Astros got Bregman. Casey Close it still married to the former Miss America, Gretchen Carlson. And I guess Jacob Nix and Mac Marshall are lost to history.

      Like

  2. This:
    Worse case McCullers doesn’t go 4 innings and the bullpen has to take over.
    Valdez doesn’t go 4 innings and now a depleted bullpen has to take over.
    BEST CASE their pitchers don’t go 4 innings and THEIR bullpen takes over!
    Problem is their bullpen is a lot better than ours.
    BEST CASE for the Astros is BOTH of our pitchers hand it over to the bullpen with a BIG lead and most of our guys down there aren’t taxed!
    Lance Lynn has been shelled the last month, and our guys put it to him here.
    Giolito however is an Astros killer….lefties are the Astros down fall….everyone of them.
    Dan I see you have us winning in 5, I’d rather have us winning in 3 or 4
    But….you’re probably right.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Well, two more high paid superstars who signed $390 million worth of deals can’t get a hit with runners on and get to go fishin’. Have a great offseason, Goldschmidt and Arenado.
    St. Louis was 0 for 11 W/ RISP. Absolutely refused to hit the ball to a wide open side of the infield.
    Scored 1 run. On a wild pitch.

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    • They said during one of Arenado’s at bats that he told STL he was not opting out of his contract once they clinched a playoff birth. Do you think ownership/management was happy to hear him say that or disappointed?

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      • Just a guess. Disappointed. He is still due $179 Million. His WAR was 4.2. Below Altuve at 4.4. Way below Correa at 7.2. He is making $35 Million a year three more years then it drops some. That would put Carlos in the $60 Million a year club.

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    • I think leaving Marwin and Odorizzi of the roster makes sense. Siri’s selection as a pinch-runner I understand, but I am not a fan of his; I just hope he doesn’t do something stupid again and lose us a game. Regarding the bullpen, I’d personally much rather have had Peter Solomon over Yimi Garcia and either Blake Taylor, Brandon Bielak, or Josh James over Phil Maton. If we win, however, I won’t care.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Folks we are on the road today and the next few so you need to watch them carefully for me as I sneak peeks on my phone
    I can’t send a link but an interesting article about the long time relationship between Dusty and Tony La…on the Astros mlb page.
    They were friends early on but due to managing against each other in the same division- Tony (Cards) and Dusty (Cubs/Reds) they were enemies. It was the funeral of Bob Welch (the pitcher not the rock star) in 2014 that Dave Stewart (the pitcher not the rock star) that they buried the hatchet.
    We will see if the hatchet stays buried

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  5. I sure hope Javier does not blow a game. You guys will be all over me. I want to see him strike some important guys out! Soloman did a fine job over 11 innings for us. But that’s an awfully short sample from a guy with unremarkable AAA statisitics. He’ll get his chance one day soon. Marwin really did nothing to prove he’s still got the skills to play at a high level. Siri might hit one out at some point. I just hope he can make it home safely. Boy, Odorizzi must be pissed. Can we pay half of his 2022 salary and move him on?

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  6. I’m as nervous as a” long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs “!!
    Cross your fingers that McCullers doesn’t come out over throwing and too amped up….but we know he WILL. Dan I read that article about Dusty and LaRussa, but I can’t help my dislike for LaRussa from playing the Cardinals for so many years…sorry, not sorry. If McCullers can get to 5 with less than 80 pitches I feel good about it, however we saw the Yankees pull Cole after 3 innings and Scherzer after 4 innings who knows what Dusty will do today.
    I need to take a nerve pill…let’s WIN this game!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bob Aspromonte,
    Al Spangler,
    Roman Mejias
    Norm Larker
    Jim Pendleton
    Hal Smith
    Joey Amalfitano
    Don Buddin
    Bobby Shantz

    They started it all – but they never saw the Houston Franchise in the playoffs. Let’s win one for the 45s!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Dusty thing that scared me was bringing in Maton when he did. But it worked. Once in, Graveman scared me. And Pressly was not sharp, but I can’t hold anything against Dusty today.

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  8. Excellent game by our recently minted ace.
    Graveman continues to concern me.
    10 hits and 6 runs with Yuli and Tucker going 0 for 8. They will hit.
    Big out by Maton.
    I hope Pressly was simply over rested.
    Good game by rookie CF Jake.
    Does Bregman have a sore arm too?
    Those first seven innings were a pleasure to watch!
    Sleepy crowd.
    Good start by our Astros.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. AWESOME WIN! Right off the start these guys were sending a message, and the message was sent to Lance Lynn. I’m back to thinking Graveman is broken, get 2 outs and he starts to unravel, I’m not sure at thus point if I’m comfortable sending him out with ANY lead. Maybe it was having 3 days off in between games, but even Presley was a bit shaky!
    McCullers did not walk anyone for the first time this season, and that was huge for him. Tomorrow won’t be as easy.
    I’ve got a legitimate gripe, the only way to actually watch the game tomorrow is MLB TV. You would think ESPN or TBS would show it, but unless you guys have MLB TV you’ll have to do what I do every game and listen to 790 a.m. and follow with your phone. To say I’m pi$$ed off is an understatement.

    Like

  10. I am glad Fox is not carrying the game tomorrow. We got tired of hearing ex-Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski rooting for the Sox. Can’t any of these stations get a booth full of commentators that have not played for one of the teams on the field??

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    • And then, for Friday’s game, MLB trots out Jim Kaat, who played for the Sox for three years. Baseball just cannot help themselves!!

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  11. Lots of heroes in this game – none bigger than Lance McCullers for pitching like the ace the staff needs and young Jake Meyers getting that first run home on a two out single going the other way. So many times this team seems to freeze up when early runs don’t occur.
    Yordan knocked the snot out of two balls – one clearing the fence the other just off the fence.
    Brantley with the big hit – Altuve and Bregman helping out – big slide by Jose on the run he scored on Bregman’s grounder
    Like DaveB said pretty impressive offense with Tucker and Gurriel not joining in

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Some thoughts:
    * Win the series. It’s pretty much the way to be a winner.
    * If you don’t want a player to steal home, play your 3rd baseman at 3B. How simple is that.
    * Maybe a couple of guys who didn’t hit well for the Astros today, will carry the team to victory tomorrow.
    * How many times did the Astros beat the shift to the open side tonight? Quite a few times. Of course, our leadoff guy is so far above doing that any more.
    If you gave up 1 run total to the 2021 White Sox in nine innings, the bullpen did their job. I’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.
    The Rays are good. Probably better than a lot of experts are.
    I think it’s pretty fair to say the Astros’ attendance has been hurt badly by the cheating scandal. How do they not sell out this game?

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  13. Reading the Chicago blogs this morning, their faithful have already given Giolito the win and a tied series going back to Chicago.

    He’s good. And his last two starts against the Astros, in 2020 and 2021 have been excellent, complete games. But he’s still 2-3 against the Astros lifetime. Small sample. In his losses this year his .OPS against is .977. So it’s not like he’s losing 1 zip. He’s averaged 5.7 innings a game. And he has given up 27 homers.

    Our guys need to do what they do best. Extend counts. Coax walks. Make him throw pitches. We’ve got lefties that hit lefties and righties that hit lefties, including our batting champ.

    I’m looking forward to Framber being on his game early. And I’m thinking our guys will hit. I’m also hoping for a louder Fiday crowd!

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    • I noticed that by the 8th inning about 1/4 of the stands were empty and I don’t think they were in the bathrooms or at the concession stands. Our guys deserve better. It’s not like we are “Stankee” fans. I thought they were more subdued than normal.

      Like

  14. Chas is playing CF today.
    I don’t think of it as a platoon, but as a continuation of their routine in the regular season. With Meyer’s start yesterday, his first game jitters are history and he could be ready to pinch hit with confidence today if needed.
    Now McCormick gets a chance to play and get some playoff jitters behind him. Keeping both of these guys ready could do a whole lot for their psyche the rest of the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. On further review, all I can do is rationalize that the analytics nerds have determined you want to make sure you use your best arm when he’s rested and has the next day off, even if you are comfortably ahead. But I’m still not sure if it’s ever been done before.

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  16. I’m completely confounded, I did not need the heartburn Graveman produced for me in the 9th. But the Astros did some beautiful things on the field today. Might have been Altuve’s best defensive game ever. Tucker is a star. Big hits by a lot of guys. Another RBI from centerfield. The guys look ready to take on the world.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Baker brought Pressly and Graveman in today to face different hitters than they were brought in to face yesterday. It is a simple as that.
      Also, Baker wanted Graveman to pitch the ninth to pump him up because the Astros are going to need Graveman to be the guy when they need him to be the guy. I saw Machete go up to Graveman on the field after the game ended and gave him a little peck on the forehead and then start to really letting him hear a clear message in his ear. They are working a lot to get Graveman’s head where it belongs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I saw the exchange between Maldy and Graveman. It’s apparent a big collective effort is being made to show him support and boost his confidence. I think that’s great. To keep things in the most simplistic perspective, the pen gave up zero runs today in 4 2/3 innings. I’m not an expert. I’m a happy Astro fan.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. I hardly ever post here but I read the comments daily during the season. I guess I don’t understand the vitriol leveled against Dusty Baker. It seems to me he has the respect of the Clubhouse, especially the core players. It seems to me that the constant complaints that he rests guys too much doesn’t stand scrutiny. Maybe that what has allowed more productivity throughout the roster. For example look at last two days performances from the centerfield position. It seems to me that he’s pushed lots of correct buttons over the year and every right button the last two days. I can understand exactly why you throw Pressly today. Isn’t it it true that in those instances where he’s had too much time off, he seems out of sorts in his next appearance? So if he doesn’t pitch today to slam the door in the shutdown 8th inning, he’s off till Sunday night. What if there’s not a save situation until Monday. Today he throws a really good 8th and has tomorrow off. And as far as Graveman, we need him. He needs to understand that. Today’s 9th is a perfect chance to have some success. And he worked himself out of his own jam. Who else should Dusty have pitched in the 9th that is more reliable. The Maton button has sure worked the last 2 days, right? It’s really easy to sit in my living room and criticize the coaching in any sport. The truth is, Dusty Baker understands the roster, players, tendencies, and percentages better than anyone not in that clubhouse. He took over last year under very adverse circumstances. We damned near went to the World Series last year and we are approaching the doorstep this year. I personally think he’s done a hell of a job. And lastly, I also don’t understand the love for AJ Hinch. He obviously lost control of the clubhouse in 2017 and didn’t have the guts to put a stop to what was happening. In addition, I’m still not sure about those late inning pitching decisions in the 2019 World Series Game 7. (although maybe there’s something
    that went into those choices I don’t know about).

    Liked by 2 people

    • My basic thought is that the only people who don’t make mistakes are those that don’t do anything.
      I don’t think anyone knows what going from 60 games to 162 games was going to do to anyone, so giving them more rest might make them fresher and their subs sharper.
      What it comes down to is that the managers with the better players are often the better managers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree totally with the “better players”theory. Barry Switzer once noted that when Jimmy Johnson coached at OSU, OU won every meeting. When Johnson went to Miami, they beat OU every time they played. Switzer concluded that “the guy with the best players usually wins. Granted, in the playoffs everyone is good. I just don’t see any evidence that Dusty Baker gets out managed or out maneuvered . So far it looks like he’s managed circles around LaRussa. Or maybe the Astros are way better than Chicago so far. Or both.

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      • I think that most on here (my opinion) don’t necessarily think Dusty’s a bad manager but we are perplexed by a lot of his decisions. Things like putting in a “gas can pitcher on a potential flareup” or “resting” a player who just went 3 for 4 and drove in 4 runs. He IS the manager and his style may be such that we can’t figure it out but we are in the playoffs and doing quite well so far. Time to put the White Sox out of their misery. I believe that the Astros are one of the best, if not the best team in baseball. We get frustrated when they play like they did in August and September when they could have won the division walking away and secured home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Not only do we want to win the WS just to do it again but to get that playoff monkey off of Dusty’s back. When things go great we sometimes give the manager credit, when they go bad we typically blame the manager. Let’s win and and all will be joyous in Astroville.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. – I thought Giolito vs Valdez was Chicago’s best matchup of the Series.
    – Gurriel, Correa and Tucker had no RBIs in game 1 and a combined 7 RBIs in game 2. That is what I was hoping for.
    – Again, the Astros went the other way to get rallies started or to move runners around the bases. Tucker goes oppo to send the crowd into orbit.
    – Astros do sell out the game.
    – Astros won two daylight games in a row to defy their regular season woes and smear dookie on the MLB Biased schedule.
    – I don’t know why, but things in the announcer’s booth go quiet when the Astros score. It was like a funeral up there during the Astros seventh inning.
    When I checked in on the Rays/Red Sox game last night, the announcers were going nuts when either of them scored.
    – The Astros had a good road record, despite facing much more road nastiness than any other team in baseball. Prime Time from Chicago on a Sunday Night would be a great time to make a statement.
    I’m just sayin’.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. In case you weren’t aware, the Astros have 4 catchers on their Top 30 Prospects list and Berryhill isn’t one of them! When is the last time the Astros had so many catching prospects?

    Liked by 1 person

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