Chicago White Sox against the Houston Astros
How they got here: Chicago White Sox
The White Sox cruised to their sixth divisional title this year behind good starting pitching, a lineup that destroys fastballs, and a great bullpen. It’s no surprise they find themselves in the 2021 ALDS. Finishing with a record of 93-69, they handsomely won the AL Central Division. Coming into this year, there were high expectations for the White Sox. They made the postseason last year in the expanded playoffs but ultimately fell to the Oakland Athletics. Now, they’re back a year later with another year of experience; they’re ready to roll. There’s discernment around manager Tony La Russa and his philosophies whether they work for the Whitesox or not, but that narrative has been put to bed (for now).
How they got here: Houston Astros
The Astros began their redemption tour this season, knowing it was going to be the “us against them” mentality, Meaning no fans except theirs wanted to see them, no one wanted them to win but their fans; them against the world. And give the Houston Astros and Dusty Baker credit, they owned it this year. They wore everything that was thrown at them this year, and they’re poised to make another deep run in the playoffs.
The Astros relied on their powerful lineup and rotation to get to where they are. Carlos Correa has had a remarkable season both offensively and defensively while hitting .279 with 26 home runs and 92 runs batted in. Correa along with Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, Kyle Tucker, and Michael Brantley is a huge reason for the Astros success so far.
Pitching Matchups, Impact Players, & Prediction
The White Sox will be sending Lance Lynn to the mound for game one. Lynn pitched to a 2.69 era this year and was a huge reason for the Whitesox rotation success. Following Lynn will either be Lucas Giolito or Carlos Rodon. Rodon has been out since the Field of Dreams game due to a shoulder injury, but the team believes he will be back for the playoffs. Assuming Rodon pitches, that’s a tough 1-2-3 to beat. Following Giolito or Rodon would be either Dylan Cease or Dallas Keuchel.
Let’s talk about that bullpen too. The White Sox traded for both Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel at the deadline, and they’ve been huge helps for the White Sox bullpen. Tepera is pitching to a 2.80 era, Kimbrel with a 2.28. Following those two, they have the intimidating Liam Hendriks sitting in the closer role. With 38 saves and 113 strikeouts this year, Hendriks is a tough opponent in the back of that bullpen.
Like the Whitesox, Houston also has a great rotation that had a collective 3.60 era this year. Game 1 will be reserved for Lance McCullers Jr. who has had a tremendous bounce-back year in his first full year since TJ surgery, pitching to a 13-5 record with a 3.16 era. Following McCullers will be LHP Framber Valdez (3.14 era), Luis Garcia (3.30 era), and Jose Urquidy (3.62 era).
Like the White Sox, the Astros too have a formidable bullpen. Ryne Stanek was a good grab for Houston this offseason, as he’s pitched to a 3.44 era and served as a great multiple-innings option. They also traded for Kendall Graveman, who’s pitched to a 1.77 era and a WHIP of 0.98. Their closer is Ryan Pressley, who has a 2.25 era this year.
Impact Players for Chicago: First Basemen Jose Abreu (.261, 30 HR’s, 117 RBI’s, .831 OPS), Third Basemen Yoan Moncada (.263, 14 HR’s, 61 RBI’s, .786 OPS), Left Fielder Andrew Vaughn (.263, 15 HR’s, 48 RBI’s, .705 OPS), Lance Lynn (2.69 era, 157.0 IP, 176 SO), and Dylan Cease (3.91 era, 165.2 IP, 226 SO).
Impact Players for Houston: Shortstop Carlos Correa (.279, 26 HR’s, 92 RBI’s, .851 OPS), Second Basemen Jose Altuve (.278, 31 HR’s, 81 RBI’s, .839 OPS), Designated Hitter Yordan Alvarez (.277, 33 HR’s, 104 RBI’s, .877 OPS), First Basemen Yuli Gurriel (.319, 15 HR’s, 81 RBI’s, .845 OPS), and Outfielder Kyle Tucker (.294, 30 HR’s, 92 RBI’s, .916 OPS)
Ryan Schwager and I are tag-teaming these MLB postseason series previews. Here are each of our picks:
Evan: I like Houston here – in four games. The White Sox are a great team, but I believe postseason experience goes a long way in the playoffs, more than arguably any other factor. The Astros have been here, every year, and are looking to go to their fifth straight ALCS. The White Sox do crush lefties, and Framber Valdez may not be the best matchup for them, however, I just don’t see Houston going home this early. They know this is Correa’s last year, Correa knows it’s Correa’s last year. Yordan Alvarez is back and crushing it, and Kyle Tucker is emerging as a superstar. I just don’t think Chicago can put them away. ‘Stros in four.
Ryan: I’m going with another upset – Chicago in five. This series is going the distance because how could it not? Of all four division series matchups, this is the most even matchup on paper. Both offenses are insane (CWS +160, HOU +205 run differentials) but the White Sox pitching is better and will be the difference. Houston has won it all with this core before, but I like the White Sox in a shortened series. If this were a best of seven, I’d probably go with Houston. To me, it feels like Chicago’s year to finally go on a run again.