Just when you think the Chicago White Sox are falling apart, they start to make you believe again.
Following Tony La Russa’s blown decision to walk the Dodgers’ Trey Turner, much to the angst of Max Muncey, the Southsiders’ have won four games out of their last six, including a sweep against the Detroit Tigers last time out.
They will find it tough against Dusty Baker's Houston Astros' though, who continue to be World Series winning contenders.
What: Chicago White Sox v Houston Astros Game 1 of 3.
Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas.
When: 01.10, Saturday 18th June 2022
How to watch: MLB.TV, Apple TV+ and bet365's Sports Live Streaming service.
Odds: (Money Line) CHI White Sox 29/20, HOU Astros 20/33
La Russa came under immense criticism following the Turner decision and subsequent loss in that game against the Dodgers. However, some pundits and commentators have explained that the veteran coach was right in his decision to walk Turner, because the analytics said so.
What the 77-year-old coach didn't expect was Muncy to execute a three-run homer which knocked the White Sox out of the game.
Houston, [10/3] for the American League, have no such problems, they currently lead the American League West by nine games over their nearest rivals, Texas Rangers.
In fact it's going so well for the Astros' that they threw two immaculate innings over their win against the Rangers. First of all, starter Luis Garcia threw one in the second inning followed by reliever Phil Maton threw another in the seventh inning. It was the first time on record that there were two immaculate innings on the same date, let alone the same game, by the same team.
The Chicago White Sox bullpen needed a rest and they got one with a Thursday day-off of which they were surely grateful for. Stretched to breaking point, Chicago's relievers were poised for respite despite starter Vince Velasquez was reactivated from the injured list earlier in the day, however Velasquez lasted just two and two/thirds of an inning.
The offence showed up though and gave the Detroit Tigers a crushing 13-0 loss with Davis Martin doing most of the heavy lifting with Jose Ruiz helping out with one inning at the end.
La Russa was full of praise for his side, speaking to the official White Sox website he said : "The best way I can describe it is that the boys came to work today. (It was) very difficult for both sides, but the boys came to work."
It was the White Sox first sweep since the start of May, the offence came to the party and the bullpen had been the glue in recent weeks while missing ace closer Liam Hendriks, who has found himself on the Injured list with a right forearm strain that's expected to sideline him for three weeks.
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The Astros will send Framber Valdez to the mound for the opening game and the 28-year-old has been excellent despite a loss on his last start against the Miami Marlins.
Valdez has a 6-3 record with a 2.64 ERA with 61 strikeouts, however the lefty has given up 28 walks, which appears to be his Achilles heel. He had won his previous five starts, though.
While Chicago has won the last two meetings between these two, Houston, 15/2 for the World Series, has won the previous five, including a four-game sweep at Minute Maid Park in 2021.
Both these old time managers have had their run-ins when managing different teams. It first started in the 2002 National League Championship series when the 72-year-old Baker was manager of the San Francisco Giants and La Russa with the St.Louis Cardinals, words were spoken following a clash on the field between the players.
Baker then went to the Cards' bitter rivals, the Chicago Cubs and both sides were battling for first place in the NL Central. There had been some talk in the media between the two sides and this came to head in a September meeting at Wrigley Field. Both sides had batters hit and then the managers started shouting at each other from the dugouts, with Baker saying after the game, that 'this was just the beginning'.
There has been some back and forth between them via the media and the two class each other as friends, including a snub from La Russa to Baker's players for selection to the All-Star game, this one has been bubbling for years.