2021 American League Division Series 2
|2021 American League Division Series|
95 - 67 in the AL
|3 - 1
|Chicago White Sox|
93 - 69 in the AL
- Adam Hamari, Chris Conroy, Tom Hallion (crew chief), Vic Carapazza, Chad Fairchild and Lance Barrett
|1||Chicago White Sox 1 Houston Astros 6||October 7||Lance Lynn (0-1) Lance McCullers (1-0)||4:05 pm|
|2||Chicago White Sox 4 Houston Astros 9||October 8||Lucas Giolito (0-0) Framber Valdez (0-0)||2:05 pm|
|3||Houston Astros 6 Chicago White Sox 12||October 10||Luis García (0-0) Dylan Cease (0-0)||8:05 pm|
|4||Houston Astros 10 Chicago White Sox 1||October 12||Lance McCullers (1-0) Carlos Rodon (0-1)||2:05 pm|
Game 1 @ Minute Maid Park
|WP: Lance McCullers (1-0); LP: Lance Lynn (0-1)|
|Home Runs: HOU - Yordan Alvarez (1)|
- Attendance: 40,497
It was indeed the first time two starting pitchers named Lance faced each other in a postseason game when Lance McCullers took the mound against Lance Lynn in Game 1. McCullers got the best of this duel, as he ended up pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings to get credit for the 6-1 win. It was really all Astros in the game as they scored in four of the first five innings to build a solid lead, and cruise the rest of the way.
After a scoreless 1st inning, the Astros opened the score in the bottom of the 2nd when Yordan Alvarez drew a lead-off walk, moved to second on a one-out single by Carlos Correa, and scored when Jake Meyers, one of the few Astros players without postseason experience, hit a two-out single to right field. Lynn again put himself in trouble with a lead-off walk in the 3rd, this one to Jose Altuve. Altuve took second on a sacrifice bunt by Michael Brantley and then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Alex Bregman then hit a grounder to 3B Yoan Moncada, who immediately threw home, but Altuve was running on contact, then slid around C Yasmani Grandal to score his team's second run. Alvarez then followed with a double off the left-center field wall, and Bregman came home all the way from first base for a 3-0 lead. At this point, the White Sox were still looking for their first hit, their only baserunner, Luis Robert, having reached on a hit-by-pitch before getting caught stealing in the 2nd. Moncada broke through with a one-out single in the 4th, but he was stranded.
In the bottom of the 4th, the White Sox put the game away with two more runs, ending Lynn's day early. Meyers got things started with a single with one out, and Altuve doubled with two outs. Up came Brantley, and Tony LaRussa opted to leave Lynn in the game, in spite of the fact he had struggled all game, instead of bringing in a lefthander. Brantley made him pay with a two-run single. Reynaldo Lopez now came in, but Lynn had been left in for one batter too long, as the lead was now 5-0. The Astros added one more run in the 5th on a long homer by Alvarez off Lopez, and the rest of the game was academic. McCullers pitched into the 7th when he was replaced by Phil Maton with two on and two out. Chicago scored one run in the 8th against Kendall Graveman, on a two-out single by Tim Anderson, a walk to Moncada, and a single by Jose Abreu, and they managed to put on a man on second against Ryan Pressly in the 9th, but that was not enough to ever threaten Houston's comfortable lead.
Game 2 @ Minute Maid Park
|WP: Ryne Stanek (1-0); LP: Aaron Bummer (0-1)|
|Home Runs: HOU - Kyle Tucker (1)|
- Attendance: 41,315
Game 2 was a much closer affair - at least until the bottom of the 7th, when the Astros recorded a couple of knockout punches that put the game out of reach for Chicago. Neither of the two starting pitchers, Framber Valdez for Houston and Lucas Giolito for Chicago, pitched particularly well, and they were both gone before the end of the 5th inning, but the main problem for the White Sox was the inability of their bullpen to hold down Houston's bats once Giolito had left. Both managers tinkered with their line-up for this game, with Dusty Baker switching around Yordan Alvarez and Michael Brantley, putting the latter at DH due to a gimpy leg, while rookie Chas McCormick replaced fellow rookie Jake Meyers in center field. For Chicago, Tony LaRussa added one righthanded bats against the lefty Valdez, with Andrew Vaughn starting at DH.
The Sox got off to a fast start against Valdez, with a one-out single by Luis Robert, followed by another single by Jose Abreu. Valdez then bounced a curveball against the foot of Yasmani Grandal to load the bases and Eloy Jimenez hit a ball to second base on which Jose Altuve made a nice diving stop; his only play was at second base to force out Grandal, but that allowed Robert to open the score, before Yoan Moncada struck out to end the inning. Giolito started out like gangbusters by striking out the side, but Valdez copied him in the top of the 2nd, after which the Astros took the lead. Yordan Alvarez drew a lead-off walk but was forced out by Yuli Gurriel. Giolito then walked Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker followed with a single, tying up the score. Both runners then advanced on a wild pitch and McCormick followed with a sacrifice fly to left for a 2-1 lead. The White Sox then placed their first two men on in the 3rd, but a strikeout followed by a double play took care of that, and in the bottom of the inning, the Astros put two men on after one out, on a double by Brantley followed by a single by Alex Bregman. But Giolito got out of that jam with a couple of short fly balls, although it was now clear that neither pitcher was on a particularly good day. They would both break in the 5th.
In the top of that inning, Leury Garcia led off with a single, and after one out, Tim Anderson singled as well. Robert tied the score with another single which marked the end of Valdez's day, as he was replaced by Yimi Garcia. Abreu greeted him with another single to make it 3-2, and after a wild pitch, Grandal hit a sacrifice fly for a 4-2 Chicago lead. It wouldn't last long, though. Altuve drew a lead-off walk from Giolito, as did Bregman after one out. That was the cue for LaRussa to bring in Garrett Crochet, but the young hard thrower also had trouble finding the plate. He walked Alvarez to load the bases, then allowed a two-out single to Gurriel, tying the score. Both managers brought in a new pitcher for the 6th, and again in the 7th. The White Sox couldn't score against either Phil Maton or Ryne Stanek, thanks in part to a nice catch by Tucker in right field to end the top of the 7th with two men on, robbing Grandal of a potential extra-base hit. In the bottom of the inning, things fell apart completely for the Pale Hose, with Aaron Bummer on the mound. Altuve got things started with a single, but Bummer struck out Brantley. Bregman hit another single, deflecting off Bummer into center field, and Altuve reached third. Alvarez followed with yet another single, putting Houston ahead, 5-4. LaRussa now called upon Craig Kimbrel to stop the rally, and he got Gurriel to line out for the second out. Correa then lifted a ball to right field, but Leury Garcia, who had just moved there from second base before the inning started, turned the wrong way and saw the ball fall out of his reach for a double, with both runners scoring. That was the first big blow, and it was immediately followed by a homer to left field by Tucker, completing the TKO. With a 9-5 lead and just two innings left, Houston was firmly in command.
Closer Ryan Pressly came out to pitch the 8th and allowed just a two-out single by Vaughn. In the 9th, it was Kendall Graveman who took the mound, but it did not go as smoothly. Cesar Hernandez drew a lead-off walk, followed by a single by Anderson. Robert advanced both runners with a grounder to shortstop, but the White Sox could not cash them in, as Abreu struck out for the second out, and Grandal flied out to right to end the game. The White Sox would head back to Chicago trailing to games to none.
Game 3 @ Guaranteed Rate Field
|WP: Michael Kopech (1-0); LP: Yimi Garcia (0-1)|
|Home Runs: HOU - Kyle Tucker (2); CHI - Yasmani Grandal (1), Leury Garcia (1)|
- Attendance: 40,288
The White Sox managed to win Game 3 to stay alive, but not before giving themselves a good scare by falling behind 5-1 after just 2 1/2 innings. This was a game in which neither starting pitcher did well - Dylan Cease for Chicago and Luis Garcia for Houston -, but in the end it was the bullpen that decided the winner, with Chicago's relievers pitching a lot better than Houston's, while their bats finally woke up in a big way.
Cease actually had a good 1st inning, setting down the Astros in order, while Garcia, who had led all major league rookies in wins and strikeouts, did not. He allowed a lead-off single to Tim Anderson, who was on his way to establishing a new major league record with 16 hits in his first 6 career postseason games (in fact, no batter before him had ever had 16 hits in 6 postseason games at any point of his career). After two outs, Yasmani Grandal drew a walk, and Eloy Jimenez followed with a single to right to open the score. That was a good start for the White Sox, but it quickly went sour as Cease suddenly and completely lost it in the 2nd. He started off by walking Yordan Alvarez and Carlos Correa consecutively, then surrendered a double to Kyle Tucker that scored both runners. Tucker advanced to third on a fly out by Yuli Gurriel and scored when Jake Meyers, today's winner in Dusty Baker's game of revolving centerfielders, singled to left. Meyers then stole second base while Cease struck out Martin Maldonado, but he then walked Jose Altuve and Tony LaRussa had seen enough. He brought in young fireballer Michael Kopech who got Michael Brantley to fly out to end the inning. Down 3-1, the White Sox only managed a walk off Garcia in the 2nd, then in the top of the 3rd, Houston made it 5-1 when Alex Bregman deflected a ball off Kopech's glove for an infield single, was forced out by Correa, but with two outs, Tucker connected for his second homer of the series, a two-run shot. Things looked bleak for Chicago at this point, down four runs and facing elimination, with their starter already out of the game, and their first reliever being shaky as well. But then came a redemptive inning that turned the series around.
Luis Robert led off with a walk, although it seemed he would rather have kept hitting as he hesitated to take his base. After Abreu struck out, Grandal hit a long ball to left field, cutting the lead to 5-3. Garcia got Jimenez to ground out and his troubles seemed almost over, but he then allowed back-to-back singles to Yoan Moncada and Gavin Sheets. Up next was Leury Garcia. Garcia vs. Garcia, you say? No, one better, as after Luis missed the strike zone with his first two pitches, Baker came out and called upon Yimi Garcia to finish the at-bat. Now Garcia and Garcia vs. Garcia was sure to be memorable, and indeed it was as Leury, not renowned for his power, drove Yimi's second pitch beyond the deepest part of centerfield for a three-run homer, sending the home crowd into a frenzy. Just like that, the White Sox had taken a 6-5 lead thanks to that memorable five-run inning. However, Houston did not lay down immediately. In the top of the 4th, Altuve drew a two-out walk, went to second on a single by Brantley, and scored the tying run on a single by Bregman. Not normally the most patient of managers, LaRussa decided to leave Kopech in to face one more batter, and the youngster delivered by striking out the very dangerous Alvarez, stranding two baserunners.
With the game still teetering in the balance at this point, the White Sox took a serious option on victory by pulling off a second big inning in a row. It started with a single by the unstoppable Anderson, followed by back-to-back singles by Robert and Abreu. Anderson scored the go-ahead run - already the fifth lead change in the game - while Robert took third. Then came another pivotal at-bat, with Grandal up and Zack Greinke having replaced the ineffective Yimi Garcia. Grandal hit a grounder to Cuban 1B Gurriel, who attempted to gun down his countryman Robert at the plate, but instead his his other countryman (at least by birth) Grandal, with his throw, and everyone was safe. The Astros protested that Grandal had been running inside the baseline, but the umpires dismissed their calls and explained after the game that this was moot given the play was not from home to first base, but the reverse, and in that case there would only have been interference had Grandal not run in a straight line in order to impede the throw, or deliberately moved a body part to do so - and he did neither of these things. So Gurriel was charged with an error, and the White Sox were now up, 8-6, with still nobody out. Jimenez then hit his second RBI single of the night to make it 9-6. The Astros could have completely crumpled at that point, but to their credit, in spite of another single by Sheets, they got out of the inning without another run scoring. They had taken a standing 8 count, however.
Ryan Tepera threw a perfect 5th inning for Chicago, while Cristian Javier replaced Greinke and put a couple of men on before retiring the White Sox. In the 6th, Tepera made it six up, six down as Houston's batters appeared badly demoralized. Javier managed to keep things relatively close with a perfect inning of his own, but Aaron Bummer came out for the 7th and struck out the side. Javier was replaced by Ryne Stanek in the middle of the 7th, without Chicago scoring, but the string of consecutive batters retired reached 13, dating back to Kopech striking out Alvarez to end the 4th, when Bummer and Craig Kimbrel combined to set down the Astros in order once again in the top of the 8th. Not that Houston appeared likely to mount a comeback by then, but Chicago put the game completely out of reach in the bottom of the 8th with three more runs, all coming after Brooks Raley replaced Stanek with two outs. The damage came from a single by Moncada, back-to-back doubles by pinch-hitter Andrew Vaughn and Leury Garcia, an infield single by Carlos Hernandez on an overturned call at first base, and another single by Anderson - his third of the game, and as mentioned above, his 16th hit in six postseason games. With a 12-6 lead, LaRussa could have left Kimbrel in to finish things off, but closer Liam Hendriks had been warming up when the game was still close and needed the work anyway, so he got to pitch the 9th, striking out Houston's last two batters, as they finished with 16 straight outs.
Game 4 @ Guaranteed Rate Field
|WP: Yimi Garcia (1-1); LP: Carlos Rodon (0-1)|
|Home Runs: CHI - Gavin Sheets (1); HOU - Jose Altuve (1)|
- Attendance: 40,170
Game 4 was delayed by 24 hours because of poor weather in Chicago, which allowed Dusty Baker to bring back Game 1 starter Lance McCullers. For his part, Tony LaRussa decided to use Carlos Rodon, who had been very good early in the season but was coming back from an injury; as a result, it wasn't clear how much he could deliver. There was also some bad blood between the teams during the forced off-day, as White Sox reliever Ryan Tepera accused the Astros of still having some "spirit of '17", in other words that they were still stealing their opponents' signs, accusations that Baker dismissed out of hand. However, starting in the 3rd inning, this game was all Houston, to the point that Chicago did not look at all like a team that had won its division handily.
Houston got off to a quick start when Jose Altuve, who had been quiet thus far, hit a double on the game's first pitch. He moved to third on a ground out by Michael Brantley, but Rodon then showed his mettle by pushing the radar gun to 99 while striking out Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez in succession. Chicago put a couple of runners on base in the bottom of the inning against McCullers but was unable to score either as Yasmani Grandal struck out swinging. In the 2nd, Carlos Correa hit a lead-off single for Houston, but Rodon retired the next three batters, and Chicago then scored the game's first run on a homer by Gavin Sheets that bounced on top of the center field fence. Astros CF Jake Meyers made a leaping attempt to catch the ball and came close, but in doing so he banged his shoulder against the fence and had to leave the game, replaced by Chas McCormick.
However, this early run would be the only noise made by the Sox's bats today. In the 3rd, Altuve was hit by a pitch and stole second base with two outs. Rodon walked Bregman and Alvarez to load the bases, after which Correa doubled to left, scoring two runs. The Astros would never look back after that. LaRussa pulled a quick hook, taking out Rodon, but his choice of reliever was surprising, as he had said before the game that the only one of his pitchers not available today was Michael Kopech, and it was him who came in. Plus, Kopech had been hit hard in Game 3, even if he received credit for the win, so the choice was doubly puzzling. He did get Yuli Gurriel to ground out for the final out, but he was lit up again in the 4th. Kyle Tucker led off with a single, then stole second and third base on consecutive pitches, not even drawing a throw. After a first out, Martin Maldonado got his first hit of the series to make it 3-1 and Altuve singled as well, already his third time on base, and Kopech was done. In came Garrett Crochet, but he wasn't sharp either, as after striking out Brantley, he gave up a double to Bregman, and two more runs came in. It was now 5-1, and things looked desperate for Chicago.
The White Sox did stir a bit in the bottom of the 4th, when they collected a single, a double and a walk, but they failed to score because Eloy Jimenez grounded into a double play and Cesar Hernandez struck out with two men on to end the inning. This did end McCullers' day on the mound, as it was later learned that he had experienced some shoulder discomfort, and the next Astros pitcher, in the 5th, was Yimi Garcia, who, like Kopech, had also pitched poorly in Game 3. However, he was much better this time and would end up receiving credit for the win. The Astros continued to add on the runs, with Brantley driving in McCormick in the 6th, and another run scoring against Craig Kimbrel in the 8th on an error, a wild pitch and another single by Brantley. LaRussa tried to raise a fuss when Jose Abreu was hit with a pitch with two outs in the bottom of the 8th, maybe hoping he would wake up the crown by getting himself ejected, but it did not work. The crowd was half asleep because the White Sox hitters had done basically nothing since McCullers had left the game. In the 9th, Altuve ended a great day by connecting for a three-run homer against closer Liam Hendriks, making the final score 10-1. The Astros were moving on the ALCS for the fifth straight year.
- Jay Cohen (Associated Press): "Altuve, Astros going back to ALCS after topping White Sox", Yahoo! Sports, October 12, 2021. 
- Matt Kelly: "Sox-Astros position-by-position breakdown", mlb.com, October 6, 2021. 
- Brian McTaggart: "'We came out hungry': Astros romp to ALCS: Correa, Bregman, Altuve get the big hits to set up date with the Red Sox", mlb.com, October 12, 2021. 
|Major League Baseball American League Division Series