Game time: 4:07 p.m. ET
Venue: Minute Maid Park, Houston, TX
Where to watch: FS1
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
BetMGM: Astros -161, White Sox +135
Caesars: Astros -140, White Sox +130
Game 1, American League Division Series
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White Sox vs Astros preview and analysis
The ghosts of 2005 have landed at Minute Maid Park and the Houston Astros have 16 years worth of pent-up revenge on their mind.
The fans, maybe. The players on this current version of the Astros could care less because they have a World Series title to celebrate (trash cans be damned).
But the Chicago White Sox will return to the scene of their last world championship 16 years ago to take on the Astros (now an American League team, of course) in Game 1 of the American League Division Series in Houston on Thursday.
There’s some sort of hilarious irony that the White Sox return to the place where they last tasted championship glory. Because this is only Chicago’s third postseason trip since hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy in Houston, and it could signal an early exit after coasting to an American League Central title.
But the White Sox have made consecutive appearances and are coming off a three-game series loss in the AL Wild Card round against the Oakland Athletics. There’s reason to think the 2005 magic resides in this club.
“Last year, in the shortened season, it was like a sprint,” starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said. “We played really good baseball. We clinched a spot in the postseason. And it was like, ‘Oh, awesome. We achieved what we were looking for.’ From there, we kind of lost that edge.
“Whereas we learned from that and this year the ultimate goal is winning a ring. We won the division. We celebrated, but at the same time, we celebrated where in the back of our mind, we knew, ‘OK, we are going to continue to play good baseball and finish this regular season strong, and be fully prepared for the playoffs.’ I feel like that’s exactly where we are at right now.”
The White Sox enter the postseason with a rotation that could rival any group in the American League with Giolito, Carlos Rodon, Dylan Cease, and Game 1 starter Lance Lynn. The four combined for 48 wins this season. And then if you’re lucky to get past that, Chicago has one of the game’s top closers in Liam Hendriks with Craig Kimbrel anchoring the bullpen.
That doesn’t even cover the bats coming in. The White Sox have a dangerous lineup from top to bottom; the speed, contact and occasional power from Tim Anderson; the pop near the top from Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu. It’s a lineup that can attack in many waves. Tony La Russa
But there is uncertainty facing Abreu, last year’s AL MVP, and his availability. He had been battling the flu in recent days, but has tested negative for COVID and is reportedly en route to Houston for this matchup.
It’s going to be a tough matchup for the White Sox batters taking on Lance McCullers Jr. in Game 1. The Astros are making their fifth straight playoff appearance with their fourth AL West title in five seasons.
McCullers led the Astros with 13 wins and was second in the rotation with a 3.16 ERA (trailing Framber Valdez by two-hundredths). He’ll be a tough opponent for this White Sox lineup, but he and Lynn will provide an excellent pitching matchup.
“It's just a privilege to be able to play October baseball,” McCullers said. “My father played many years in this game, seven, eight years. I know guys who go their whole careers and never get to a postseason in general. So being able to be here, I don't know, my fifth, maybe sixth time, it's a blessing.”
The Astros having home-field advantage is going to make a difference in this series. Sign-stealing or not, Minute Maid Park is a tough place to play in October (unless you’re the Washington Nationals). Houston is going to take Game 1 off a dominant effort from McCullers and a good day front the heart of the lineup. Astros win 6-2
The White Sox are 12-23 (-4.8 net games on the money line) in the last three years as a road dog between +125 and +175.
The Astros are 74-27 (+33.6 net games) in games following four consecutive home games.
The Astros are 16-4 as favorites between -100 and -150 when McCullers starts.
White Sox: 1B Jose Abreu (flu, questionable)
Tim Anderson (R) SS
Luis Robert (R) DH
Yoan Moncada (S) 3B
Yasmani Grandal (S) C
Eloy Jimenez (R) LF
Leury Garcia (S) RF
Adam Engel (R) CF
Andrew Vaughn (R) 1B
Cesar Hernandez (S) 2B
Jose Altuve (R) 2B
Michael Brantley (L) LF
Carlos Correa (R) SS
Kyle Tucker (L) RF
Alex Bregman (R) 3B
Chas McCormick (R) CF
Marwin Gonzalez (S) 1B
Jake Meyers (R) DH
Martin Maldonado (R) C
Probable starting pitchers: Lance Lynn (CWS) vs. Lance McCullers Jr. (HOU)
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