Grandal and García Help White Sox Deny Astros ALDS Sweep, Force Game 4

Most sports fans likely would’ve guessed that the weirdest thing they would see Sunday had already occurred. Hapless NFL kickers, a bizarre ground rule double, and an unlikely walk-off home run had peppered the first two-thirds of the day. Then the Astros and White Sox combined to score fifteen runs during the first four innings of their Game 3 tilt in Chicago, with an epic and somewhat controversial crescendo packed into a wild 90 minutes at a boisterous Guaranteed Rate Field.

Dylan Cease blazed through the top of the first inning, which ended with an emphatic 100-mph fastball blown past Alex Bregman. After that moment, the game became a grinding, roller coaster affair, with several haymakers thrown over the next few innings, culminating in a five-run third and three-run fourth for the White Sox, respectively the largest and the decisive blow in their 12–6 victory to keep the season alive for a Game 4 on Monday.

Chicago chipped away immediately as part of a high-stress first inning for Astros starter Luis Garcia, who was constantly blowing into his pitching hand as if he were cold. Turns out, he was. A Tim Anderson leadoff single would eventually score via an Eloy Jiménez knock to center field, but there were signs of danger beyond that. Garcia fell behind hitters, got away with a grooved 2–0 fastball to José Abreu, and watched Yasmani Grandal crush a ball into foul territory, as all three outs he got in the first were put in play at 95 mph or above. The White Sox only got one run out of it, but the 25-pitch first inning for Garcia, lasting nearly 30 minutes, was a portent of doom for Houston.

That wasn’t clear right away, though. When Cease returned to the mound for the second, he was not nearly as sharp as he looked in the first. Two consecutive walks to start the frame prompted a mound visit from pitching coach Ethan Katz, followed by the white-hot Kyle Tucker opening his hips and turning on a 98-mph fastball on the inner third of the plate, sending it flying into the right-center gap for a two-run double. Tucker moved to third on a Yuli Gurriel fly out, then rookie surprise Jake Meyers ripped a hotshot single past Yoán Moncada to score him, chasing Cease in the process. It was the shortest start of his career.

For a moment, it looked as though Garcia (who struck out the first two batters in the second) and White Sox reliever Michael Kopech would stabilize things and usher us into the middle innings. Instead, all hell broke loose for the next hour and a half. After a Houston runner was put on via a deflected infield hit in the third, Tucker ambushed a first-pitch fastball and homered the opposite way, pushing the Houston lead to four runs and making him 4-for-12 with two homers in this series.

In the bottom of the third, Luis Robert fought back from an 0–2 hole to draw a leadoff walk against Garcia. Two batters later, Grandal crushed another one, this time in fair territory, for a two-run shot to pull Chicago within two, prompting a mound visit and action in the Astros’ bullpen. A pair of two-out singles and two errant pitches to White Sox utility man Leury García brought Dusty Baker out of the dugout to remove his starter in the middle of the at-bat in favor of righty reliever Yimi García. But his third pitch was a piped 96-mph fastball that was deposited 436 feet away to dead center field, the longest homer of Leury’s career, to cap a five-run White Sox eruption in the third and give them a 6–5 lead.

Again, Houston fought back. After two punchouts to start the inning, Kopech gave the Astros oxygen with a two-out walk to Jose Altuve. He fell behind the next two hitters (Michael Brantley and Bregman), who each jumped on 1-0 pitches, notching back-to-back singles that plated Altuve and tied the game.

The game entered the Twilight Zone in the bottom of the fourth. The top of Chicago’s order managed three consecutive singles off of Yimi García, plating a run and setting the table for Grandal, who had runners on the corners with no outs. His opponent: potential future Hall of Famer and former Dodgers teammate Zack Greinke, now on in relief. The switch-hitting catcher sent a firm grounder toward Gurriel at first base, who charged it and looked to go home to try to nab Robert attempting to score. But Grandal instantly went so far inside the foul line that he was running on the grass rather than the dirt surrounding it, blocking Gurriel’s throwing lane to the plate. A “subtle” extension of his elbow deflected the toss wide of catcher Martin Maldonado, and Robert scored.

Not only did the run score, but Gurriel’s decision to throw home rather than go to a different base also meant that, after the dust settled, the White Sox still had nobody out and a couple runners on. Five more Chicago hitters came to the plate in the frame, helping to scratch another crooked number onto the scoreboard and creating a deficit that would prove insurmountable for Houston.

White Sox deadline acquisition Ryan Tepera came in and stabilized the entire game, working two perfect innings. He, fellow former Cub Craig Kimbrel, lefty Aaron Bummer, and Liam Hendriks combined to work five perfect innings, striking out nine Astros (Houston had MLB’s lowest strikeout rate during the regular season) without allowing a baserunner. The three insurance runs Chicago tacked on late in the game are a notable formality because they came off of Houston’s only relief lefty, Brooks Raley, who appeared particularly vulnerable to the pieces on Chicago’s bench.

The Astros will send 26-year-old Mexican righty José Urquidy to the mound to try to finish the series; a changeup artist, he has dramatic reverse splits that might prompt Tony La Russa to fill his lineup with more righties than usual. The White Sox will call upon All-Star lefty Carlos Rodón, who dealt with a second-half shoulder injury and has exhibited a drop in velocity, to stave off elimination once more. Rodon has a tendency to work inefficiently, so it’s likely we see a good bit of Chicago’s bullpen again on Monday; Bummer, Tepera, Kimbrel and Hendriks have all thrown two of the last three days, but they should all be available, as should everyone for the Astros.





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

30
Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
newest oldest most voted
Dmjn53
Member
Dmjn53

IMO there’s no player with a greater gap between public/casual fan perception and actual production than Yasmani Grandal. A strong playoff performance won’t completely remedy that, but it’ll go a long way

TheAnalytics
Member
TheAnalytics

Only 1000 games played and 38 WAR already, if you are into that kind of thing from your catcher

Cave Dameron
Member
Cave Dameron

Career WAR/162
Grandal: 6.05
Soto: 6.18
Acuna: 6.48
Trout: 9.79
Baines: 2.20

tung_twista
Member
tung_twista

Grandal’s contract strongly suggests that FOs’ perception is closer to public/casual fans than to fwar.
Seeing the Dodgers take his job away right before the 2017 playoffs and then in the middle of the 2018 playoffs left an indelible impression on a lot of people.

Dmjn53
Member
Dmjn53

Is it though? He had to take a 1 year deal in free agency 2 years ago and then signed a deal far less than Realmuto got. I’m not hear to argue who’s better between Realmuto and Grandal, but he’s not $45m worse