The Chicago White Sox will hope to avenge their defeat at the hands of the Houston Astros in last year’s ALDS when they begin a three-game set tonight at Minute Maid Park.
After White Sox fans serenaded Guaranteed Rate Field with chants calling for Tony La Russa to be fired after blowing two extra-inning games against the Texas Rangers, Chicago rebounded, sweeping the Detroit Tigers in three games earlier this week.
The Astros return home after taking two-out-of-three from Texas, but they have not found offensive fortune at Minute Maid. Houston averages 3.8 runs per game at home, which ranks 23rd in baseball.
Lucas Giolito will take the mound for the White Sox tonight and will look to bounce back from a subpar five-inning outing against the Rangers, in which he gave up four runs on six hits.
Houston will turn to Framber Valdez, who, with AL Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander, provides one of the strongest 1-2 punches in the MLB. Valdez has struggled at home this season, sporting a 4.15 ERA.
Let’s take a deeper dive into this primetime matchup between two 2021 playoff teams.
South Side Surge
Chicago pelted Detroit this week, scoring 27 runs in the series. Towering center fielder Luis Robert, slugger Jose Abreu, and the productive Andrew Vaughn have powered the White Sox offense as of late.
Abreu has been firing on all cylinders. He is slashing .344/.465/.613 in his last 25 games, and his discipline at the plate has stood out. He has been feasting on left-handers this season, batting .310 with an OPS of 1.015. A matchup with Valdez will be welcomed by the former MVP and the White Sox as a whole, who leads the league in OPS against southpaws.
The third pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Vaughn is beginning to show why he was such a highly-touted prospect. He has been on a tear, batting .458 and driving in six runs in his last five games.
Shaky Giolito Should Give Up Runs
The White Sox are three games back in the AL Wild Card race. They are going to need quality starts from Giolito throughout the dog days of summer to ensure a spot in the Postseason.
Aside from a win against Tampa Bay, Giolito has been run-happy in his last three starts, giving up 10. Houston is significantly better against right-handers, driving in 187 RBIs compared to 70 facing lefties.
No pitcher in baseball wants to face Yordan Alvarez right now. Houston’s intimidating designated-hitter is riding a ridiculous 1.339 OPS through June and is perhaps the best hitter in baseball. He leads the league in three expected stats: xBA, xSLG, and xwOBA.
Alvarez and company should get to the unreliable Giolito, who gives up a plethora of hard-hit balls and is likely to let up walks.
Regression should be coming for Valdez, and that might just be the case against a smoking Chicago offense which wants to score fast and big.
Although Giolito can turn in a positive bounce-back performance, I like the Astros to score a healthy amount of runs returning home from a road trip.
Take the over of 8 (-105) and lean toward the White Sox +1.5 (-145) on the run line.