White Sox swept by defending World Series champions this past weekend but there were some positives for the team as they lost season series to Houston.
The White Sox were quietly swept by the Houston Astros over the weekend in an ultimately rough four-game series. The Sox could have easily snuck away from Minute Maid Park with two, even three wins but failed to put the finishing touches on any of the promising performances.
But even as the Astros were seemingly pounding away at the White Sox, Houston really showed how great the other end of the spectrum can be after a rebuild.
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Quick hits: Jose Abreu was voted to the AL All-Star team. The first Sox player since Frank Thomas in 1996 to be voted to the Mid-Summer Classic. On the other side, Avisail Garcia was taken out of Sunday’s game with hamstring soreness, the injury that kept him out for almost two months. He had two home runs in the Houston series, five home runs in his last seven games, and was hitting .333 with an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.130 since returning from the DL. However, the Sox announced on Tuesday that Garcia was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a strained hamstring.
Going back to Houston, the series started as it finished, with two great performances from two promising pitchers. Carlos Rodon started Thursday’s game and went toe-to-toe with one of the frontrunners for American League Cy Young in Justin Verlander. Verlander and Rodon battled through the lineups, each holding their opponents to two measly runs.
Verlander pitched seven innings, struck out 10, allowed two earned runs on four hits in a typical Verlander game. But Rodon was matching Verlander almost every step of the way, putting zeros on the scoreboard until the fifth inning. This game was tied heading into the eighth inning at 2-2 until “Leury Legend” Leury Garcia hit a solo shot to take the lead and give the White Sox a chance to win it in the ninth inning. But that didn’t happen.
The Astros eventually rallied off of Joakim Soria and scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie and win it in walk off fashion. This was a very winnable game for the White Sox.
The two games in between were a little less close but the White Sox still had their chances.
Friday’s game was a mess. Reynaldo Lopez did not have his best stuff (4.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 K) and the bullpen had to go the rest of the way. It did not go well (3.1 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 2 K). The Sox were losing 4-1 going into the eighth so they technically did haan ve inkling of a chance but they ended up losing 11-4 after an ugly seven-run eighth.
Saturday’s game was started by James Shields and he did not have his best stuff either. Shields, who had a 2.01 ERA over his last five starts, gave up eight earned runs in only 5 2/3 innings. It was an early 6-1 lead for the Astros going into the sixth, all signs pointing to a big loss, but the Sox managed to put up a four spot and cut the lead to 6-5.
But Shields came out for the sixth, gave up another two runs and the bullpen put the game to rest allowing another four. The Sox would lose 12-6 after only trailing 6-5. Not exactly a winnable game but they had a chance to take a later lead.
The highlight of the entire series might have come during the last game of the series on Sunday, where Lucas Giolito had probably his best start of his entire, young career in a 2-1 loss. He pitched a career-high 7.1 innings, gave up two runs on a solo home run to Jose Altuve and a sacrifice squeeze bunt.
He came out dealing against the defending World Champion Astros. He had another shaky first inning, which is becoming routine, but really settled down, retiring nine in a row during the fourth, fifth and sixth inning, which is great to see because Giolito does not do very well a few times through the lineup.
Giolito was great and the bullpen even picked him up, collecting the last two Astro outs of the game. But the White Sox were completely overpowered by Dallas Keuchel and the Houston bullpen. All the offense they could muster was one run on a sac fly by Tim Anderson. Again, another winnable game.
So the White Sox were swept but it’s not as bad as it looks. There are always positives to take from every game and this series as a whole, looking at both the White Sox and the Astros, had many positives that go beyond the surface stats.
There were memorable performances from players like Rodon, Giolito and Yoan Moncada but what was great to see was the Astros and how far they’ve come after their rebuild.
The Astros are exactly where the White Sox want to be in a few years. With almost entirely opposite records (Sox: 30-60 & Astros: 61-32), the Astros were the laughing stock of the MLB before becoming the World Series Champions and now are favorites to repeat.
The White Sox are still very far away from being remotely close to contending but looking at the Astros from top to bottom should be comforting. The White Sox might not even be as bad as Houston was a few years ago but they are positioning themselves to be in the same boat the Astros currently find themselves in.
Watching the Astros is all the evidence needed to show that a full rebuild can work and the White Sox should be excited. Being a powerhouse contender after a few seasons of losing and stockpiling is a possibility for the future.
Losing and losing a lot can be incredibly demoralizing, discouraging and outright depressing, but if a lot of losing means that the Sox will have a chance to be in a similar position as the Astros, the ends will justify the means.