The Chicago White Sox bullpen did everything it needed to do to avoid being eliminated from the American League Divisional Series against the Houston Astros Sunday night. The relievers called upon to bail out starter Dylan Cease were stellar in leading the White Sox to a 12-6 win.
Cease made his first-ever post-season start in game three but didn’t last long which was not what manager Tony LaRussa was looking for. Cease was tagged for three runs and could only get through one and two-thirds innings before the bullpen came in to hold down the damage. Five pitchers were used to help extend the Sox season, starting with Michael Kopech who made his first appearance of the playoffs.
Kopech came on after Cease’s second inning troubles and went 2.1 innings, giving up three runs while striking out five. That would be all the Astros would get as Ryan Tepera, Aaron Bummer, Craig Kimbrel, and Liam Hendriks combined to retire the last 15 Astro hitters over the final five innings of the game. In the end, White Sox pitchers struck out 16 Astros on the night.
The bullpen’s performance was huge not just because it helped the Sox gain a much-needed victory but it brought confidence to a pitching staff that had given up 15 runs in the first two games.
The Chicago White Sox bullpen will be needed on Monday afternoon at home.
That confidence will be needed in game four as the White Sox sends Carlos Rodon to the hill. Rodon’s shoulder soreness issues led to him only making six starts over the last two months of the season. In five of those six starts, he went five innings and posted a 1.94 ERA during that time period.
Due to Rodon’s health concerns, it wasn’t a sure thing if or when he would pitch in the postseason. Even if he could go, the thought was he might be good for only three innings which meant the bullpen would have to be ready to do some heavy lifting.
Now that Rodon will get the ball, all the attention will be focused on him and how much he will be able to give. Should he max out at three innings or less, Tony La Russa may opt to go will the same relievers he used on Sunday. Kopech threw 47 pitches in his stint while Tepera and Bummer combined for 47 over 3.2 innings. The three pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts before making way for Kimbrel and Hendriks to close it out.
As odd as it may sound, since this is an “all hands on deck” type of situation, it is possible Cease could even be called on if needed since he threw only 44 pitches. Reynaldo Lopez hasn’t thrown since game one while Garrett Crochet saw action in the first two games in Houston.
Chances are the only guy who won’t be available for Monday’s game will be Lucas Giolitio who could get the start in game five should the White Sox take care of business on Monday.