Once the Chicago White Sox took game three of the American League Divisional Series against the Houston Astros on Sunday, talk turned to who would take the ball to try and even the series up on Monday. Would it be game one starter Lance Lynn or would it be Carlos Rodon?
While weather issues pushed the game back to Tuesday, manager Tony La Russa was quick to name Rodon the starter. During an interview with Fox Sports’ Tom Verducci, La Russa said of Rodon:
"“I think he has earned it and, especially, since he says he thinks he’s gonna have more of that velocity back. I think it’s an easy call for us.”"
Saying it is an “easy call” might raise some eyebrows considering that Rodon had only made six starts over the last two months of the season due to shoulder soreness. La Russa pointed to Rodon’s last start against the Cincinnati Reds in which the lefty didn’t have his normal velocity but did make some good pitches, citing his breaking ball and changeup as ones that were working well.
However, while La Russa acknowledged the White Sox wouldn’t be where they are at without Rodon and that he “earned” the chance to start game four, it does come with a caveat:
"“The last few days he feels like he’s got more life,” said LaRussa. “So, we’re at, really excited to send him out there without knowing for sure what he’s gonna have.”"
That fear of the unknown places greater emphasis on the bullpen which came up big on Monday. After starter Dylan Cease was lifted for giving up three runs in an inning and a third, the White Sox used Michael Kopech, Ryan Tepera, Aaron Bummer, Craig Kimbrel, and Liam Hendriks to shut the door on the Astros offense.
The relievers combined for 14 strikeouts and after Kopech gave up three runs in his 2.1 innings, they allowed no hits and no runs over the last five innings. Had the game been played on Monday, La Russa said all the relievers from game three would have been available if needed. The rainout bought each of them, including Rodon, an extra day of rest.
But what about Lynn? He certainly had a game to forget in the opener and that may have played into La Russa’s decision to go with Rodon. When asked if he considered Lynn for the start, LaRussa said:
"“No. Lance was in uniform and in the bullpen yesterday, ya know, to give us length…if something happened in the game.”"
Lynn was tagged for five earned runs in three and two-thirds innings on Thursday and considering his past pitching woes against the Astros (he gave up six runs in four innings in a loss back in July), La Russa may believe Lynn’s value to the staff be in his coming out of the bullpen.
Speaking of game one starters, Astros’ manager Dusty Baker has decided to go back to Lance McCullers Jr. instead of Jose Urquidi to try and close out the series. The rainout allows McCullers, who tossed a four-hit no-run gem over 6.2 innings last Thursday, to pitch on full rest. Should the White Sox get the win and send the series back to Houston, chances are Lucas Giolito will get the ball as he would also be on full rest.