Unlike Thursday's opener, there were some rough parts to Friday's Game 2 of the A.L.D.S. for the Astros against the White Sox. But Houston delivered the knockout punch in a five-run seventh inning to topple Chicago, 9-4, before 41,315 at Minute Maid. The Astros now take a 2-0 lead to Bad Bad Leroy Brown's burg, needing just one win to punch their ticket to the League Championship Series.
Tucker: Dugout joy after HR
(c) Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle
Framber Valdez lacked the consistency of Lance McCullers. Valdez exited during a three-run fifth inning that gave the Pale Hose a 4-2 lead. Yuli Gurriel quickly tied it with a two-run single off Lucas Giolito. For a couple of tense innings the tie stayed in place.
That's when the big bats went to work. Jose Altuve, who made some sterling defensive plays during the contest, got the rally started with a sharp single up the middle against lefty Aaron Bummer. One out later, Alex Bregman punched a base hit to center as Altuve sped to third.
Yordan Alvarez popped a single that plated Altuve for the 5-4 lead, prompting baseball's oldest manager, Tony LaRussa, to waddle out of the dugout. He motioned for the bullpen to bring in Craig Kimbrel.
Many of you know Kimbrel because he was the name on many Astro fans' lips just before the trade deadline, begging James Click to burst the salary cap and trade for Kimbrel who had an 0.49 ERA and 23 saves with the Cubs. The cross-town White Sox acquired him instead and he rewarded the Pale Hose with a 5.09 ERA and one save over the final two months.
After Gurriel lined out to right for the second out, Clutch Carlos Correa delivered a line drive double to the wall in right, scoring Bregman and Alvarez. Before Kimbrel could regain his composure, Kyle Tucker skied a two-run homer into the Crawford Boxes to open up a five-run cushion.
After that, the Astros just needed to keep Chicago in check. Although both Ryan Pressly and Kendall Graveman struggled, they kept their innings scoreless to close out the 9-4 triumph.
The Sox outhit Houston, 11-10, but the Astros took advantage of six walks while Chicago received only half of that. Further, the White Sox suffered some defensive lapses while the Astros defensively made every play they needed to make.
Tucker led the way with three RBis and joined Bregman in the multi-hit column.
Now the scene switches to the Southside of Chicago where the Astros hope to erase some bad memories from the 2005 World Series. Rookie Luis Garcia (11-8, 3.30 ERA) is scheduled to start for Houston against righthander Dylan Cease (13-7, 3.91), the likely mound opponent although LaRussa might opt for lefty Carlos Rodon (13-5, 2.37) who is struggling with shoulder pain. The Astros will have three chances to get the clincher in this best-of-five series. The first chance comes at 7:07 pm Central time Sunday on the FS1 network.
82-year-old baseball analyst Jim Kaat is in hot water. He said during Friday's telecast that he wished he had a "forty acre field" full of players like Chicago third baseman Yoan Moncada, a Cuban. To some, it sounded like an allusion to slavery. Afterward, he issued an apology.
The comment seemed bizarre as much as anything else and I doubt it was anything like a racial slur from the former All-Star. It was, however, the lowlight of a very ragged telecast from MLB Network's crew which demonstrated regularly how little they knew about the Astros and White Sox who were actually playing the game. If the sports networks who pay for the broadcast rights of the postseason games can't find knowledgeable on-air talent, I wish they'd go back to what NBC used to do back in the 60s and 70s, using the team-affiliated announcers in playoff telecasts who well know the teams they cover on a daily basis.
- Bob Hulsey