The dust has settled for the White Sox’s dashed playoff hopes after exiting in the American League Division Series against the powerhouse Astros team. How did the White Sox fare in the series? Not great. But let’s talk about what caused the White Sox, one of baseball’s most promising teams, to lose the ALDS.
Game 1 – Astros 6, White Sox 1
Lance Lynn was certainly an interesting choice for game one. On one hand, he is experienced and has been there before. On the other, Lynn’s was 5-7 against the Astros with a 4.41 earned run average, surrendering 14 home runs to the Astros in 81 ⅔ innings. Wild pitches, walks, and the lackluster defense forced Lynn out after only 3 ⅔ innings. The bullpen tried to stop the bleeding, but it was not enough.
Meanwhile, Lance McCullers Jr. forced 11 ground outs and held the White Sox to just five hard-hit balls, including two through the first six innings.
At least Tim Anderson had something to celebrate.
Game 2 – Astros 9, White Sox 4
Lucas Giolito got the start for game two and appeared to be in playoff mode early on, even striking out on the side. The White Sox took an early lead, but the Astros quickly responded after Giolito issued two walks that resulted in Kyle Tucker’s run batted in to make it a one to one game. A sacrifice fly made it two to one. While Giolito tried his best, he left the game after 4⅓ innings, 90 pitches, three hits, and four runs.
The White Sox tried to keep Giolito out of hot water but again came up short. Luis Robert went three for four, including a single in the top of the fifth to tie the game. However, the bottom of the batting order could not produce. Together, they went 2 for 11, and César Hernández walked once.
Game 3 – White Sox 12, Astros 6
Home field advantage is important. This game proved that. Am I a little bitter that the White Sox squandered that advantage in August and September? Yeah.
Game three was do-or-die for the White Sox. Finally back in Chicago, the White Sox kept their championship window open as they beat the Astros by six. Dylan Cease got the start and threw some heat at first but did not last very long. At only 44 pitches and 1 ⅔ innings pitched, Cease left and Michael Kopech finally made an appearance. Sadly, Kopech did not do any better with three earned runs.
The White Sox took advantage of the Astros’ bullpen in the third inning, and Aaron Bummer and Ryan Tepera prevented the Astros from doing any more damage. Leury García went down as a legend with his first postseason home run, which happened to be a three-run home run.
Hope was alive — Sox in five.
Game 4 – Astros 10, White Sox 1
Just kidding, hope was not alive at all.
Carlos Rodón was solid through two innings, with three strikeouts and unexpectedly high velocity that pushed triple figures. Alas, he got stuck in a jam by walking José Altuve, and Alex Bregman’s double put the Astros in the lead.
While the strike zone was a little wild, Rodón still struggled with his command and was quickly replaced by Michael Kopech for the last out of the third. Kopech then set his own fires to put out, and by the end of the fourth inning, the game was out of reach.
Lance McCullers Jr. only seemed to have issues with Gavin Sheets. McCullers walked three but struck out five, keeping the White Sox to just one run. Unfortunately for Houston’s future in the playoffs, McCullers left the game after just four innings, feeling forearm tightness.
There are plenty of people to place blame upon for how this season ended. The division itself was awful, so of course, the White Sox won.
When you face a team like the Astros, or any other halfway decent team, you cannot make little league defensive errors. The White Sox committed plenty of those, and with César Hernández struggling at second, it was only brought to the forefront during the series.
At the same time, if you are only going to hit singles, you are not going to go very far. If the ball goes far, the team goes far.
Another thing to address: when your starting rotation of pitchers can’t last any longer than four innings, there is certainly a problem that desperately needs to be addressed.
Lastly, La Russa’s bullpen management is often less than desirable. The White Sox doted on him and his experience, being a Hall of Fame manager. And sure, he is. But that was a decade ago. Knowing Craig Kimbrel’s struggles in the eighth but bringing him in any way, allowing pitchers to stay in long after running out of gas, and misusing Kopech did not help.
The White Sox will be good for years to come, but 2021 should have been the first of many winning seasons when you look at the team on paper.
The White Sox will be good for years to come, and they were good in 2021. But their short series against Houston exposed a number of holes that will need fixing if the team wants better results in 2022 and beyond.
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Main image credit Embed from Getty Images