Astros’ Lance McCullers bigger problem for White Sox than one loss

McCullers larger issue for Sox than one loss in ALDS initially appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

HOUSTON – Orbit, the Astros mascot, made it from the best field gate to centerfield and midway back prior to Adam Engle reached the dugout entryway.

Orbit was carrying a giant Astros flag, however Engle was taking in the White Sox’ Game 1 loss, after making the last out of the American League Division Series opener, on a wild barehanded play by Astros 2nd baseman Jose Altuve.

“Our club doesn’t get discouraged,” White Sox supervisor Tony La Russa stated after a 6-1 loss to the Astros. “If they beat you, tip your cap, and you come out tomorrow. There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll come out all set to play.”

The White Sox offense was faced with a tall task Thursday at Minute Maid Park. By the end of the fourth inning, they were staring at a five-run deficit, as White Sox starting pitcher Lance Lynn struggled again against the Astros. By the end of the fifth, it was six runs.

Though the White Sox made a bit of a late offensive push, successes against Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. were few and far between. The right-hander limited the White Sox to four hits in 6 2/3 shutout innings.

The problem for the White Sox is, after pitching Game 1 in the best-of-five series, the Astros ace could be available to start Game 4 on short rest, or Game 5 if the series gets that far. So, the South Siders will likely have to get past McCullers down the road if they hope to advance to the AL Championship Series.

“That’s because he’s one of the best in the league,” White Sox three-hole hitter José Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo, when asked what made McCullers so tough to face. “I mean, he’s in the majors.”

McCullers said part of his game plan was to be “overwhelming in the zone.” He did that, not issuing a single walk. Of his 104 pitches Thursday, 62 were strikes.

“For one of the most part,” McCullers said, “perhaps aside from a couple change-ups and a couple heating units, even when pitches weren’t in the zone, they had function, and they assisted me out through the remainder of the video game.”

McCullers held the White Sox hitless through the very first 3 innings. Yoán Moncada lastly broke the streak with one out in the 4th inning, striking a line drive into shallow left field.

He made it into scoring position, advancing to 2nd on José Abreu’s groundout to shortstop. But Grandal struck a comebacker on the ground for the 3rd out of the inning. All 3 were groundouts.

Finally in the seventh inning, the White Sox began to string together strikes versus McCullers, with songs from José Abreu, Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez. But already, McCullers had actually pitched what would have been thought about deep by regular-season requirements. In the short-leash postseason, his start was virtually Herculean.

“Sometimes you just have to go toe to toe and just see who’s better on any given day,” McCullers stated of assaulting the zone versus a well balanced White Sox lineup. “It’s just one of those things where they have a fantastic offense. They have a lot of power. They have a lot of guys who hit for high average. They have a lot of guys who don’t swing or chase and miss.

“… You’re either going to sit there all day and worry about this and that, how good they are, or you can just lay it on the line and go after them and see what happens.”

The White Sox lastly scored in the 8th inning, after McCullers pulled away to the dugout. With 2 outs, Astros reducer Kendall Graveman tossed a first-pitch fastball to Tim Anderson. The White Sox leadoff player drove it to best field for a single. Next, Moncada drew a walk, pressing Anderson to 2nd as Abreu stepped up to the plate.

Abreu, whose accessibility was doubtful up till about an hour prior to video game time due to the fact that of a non-COVID-19 disease, ended the Astros’ shutout quote.

“I think in the last few innings we showed the kind of offense we have,” Abreu stated, “the kind of offense we’ve been carrying throughout the whole season, and hopefully we can carry that for tomorrow.”

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