Do you remember when the Astros gave a five-year extension to Lance McCullers Jr. in late May, right before the season started? Well, it was for outings like this one. With McCullers Jr. on top of his game and Yordan Álvarez torturing rival pitchers, the Astros struck first in the American League Division Series, with a 6-1 win at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros enjoyed a beautiful start against the White Sox’ Lance, Lance Lynn, who lasted only 3 2/3 frames. In the second inning, after McCullers had thrown two hitless frames, Jake Meyers hit an opposite-field single off Lynn to drive in Álvarez. An inning later, Houston scored two more runs after a fielder’s choice play and an RBI double from Yordan. The inning included this outstanding slide at home by José Altuve…
What a BEAUTIFUL slide by Jose Altuve— Ben Verlander (@BenVerlander) October 7, 2021
Regarding McCullers, he allowed his first hit of the game to Yoán Moncada with one man retired in the top fourth. But in general, the White Sox had a rough afternoon against the 28-year-old righty, who was done after 6 2/3 shutout innings of four hits, no walks, and four strikeouts to get his second career win in the postseason.
While McCullers was on the mound, Moncada and Luis Robert were the only White Sox’s players to get to second base. But all the hits he allowed were singles. His success was based almost entirely on mixing sinkers, sliders, and curveballs, a combination that generated eight whiffs and 28 called strikes.
.@lmccullers43 is the first @astros pitcher to go 6.2+ scoreless innings in a #postseason game allowing 0 BB since Brandon Backe in the 2005 World Series, (Game 4) also against the White Sox. pic.twitter.com/9QrFD9KEPj— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) October 7, 2021
“He likes to be in this kind of games. I was kinda expecting this from him and he did it. I’m so happy for him,” Altuve said about McCullers Jr. “
Back to the offense, another big inning came in the fourth. While the White Sox were getting their first hit of the contest, Altuve and Michael Brantley drove in two more runs to make it 5-0. In the fifth, just minutes later, Álvarez launched a 411-feet moonshot off Reynaldo López, the final run of the game for the Astros.
Then, the eighth inning was a bit troubled for Houston with Kendall Graveman making a relief appearance. After retiring Adam Engel and Leury García with five pitches, Tim Anderson got a two-out single, Graveman walked Moncada, and José Abreu hit an RBI single to produce the only run of the game for the White Sox.
Ryan Pressly brought things to an end with 21 pitches and two strikeouts to Eloy Jiménez and Gavin Sheets. It was his fifth career save in the postseason.
The good thing is that the Astros handled and preserved a comfortable lead, got enough innings from McCullers Jr., and despite strenuous innings from Graveman and Pressly, rested some of their others relievers, who can be fresh for the second game of the series.
On Friday (1:07 pm CT), both teams collide again with Framber Valdez on the mound for the Astros and Lucas Giolito with the ball for Chicago.