It’s fair to say that the Chicago White Sox got off to a rough postseason start on Thursday in Game 1 of their American League Division Series matchup with the Houston Astros. They scratched out just one run and saw their ace, Lance Lynn, get roughed up for five runs in just 3.2 innings. Nothing went right for Chicago and it never really felt like the White Sox had a chance against Lance McCullers Jr. and the Astros, who won 6-1 in a laugher.
Fortunately for the White Sox, they have a quick turnaround and can redeem themselves in Game 2 on Friday afternoon in Houston with their other top pitcher, Lucas Giolito, on the mound. He’ll oppose Houston lefty Framber Valdez in another intriguing pitching matchup Giolito will have to be a lot sharper than Lynn if the White Sox are going to avoid a 2-0 deficit when this series moves to Chicago.
First pitch from Minute Maid Park on Friday is at 2:07 p.m. ET. The BetUS Sportsbook has the Astros as -115 moneyline favorites while the White Sox are +105. MLB playoff odds have the over/under at eight runs.
Giolito: Huge Second Half
Overall, Giolito put together another really strong season, making 31 starts and pitching a career-high 178.2 innings with a 3.53 ERA. He struck out over 10 batters per nine innings and held opposing hitters to a .219 batting average. His only real bugaboo was the long ball, as he allowed 27 home runs — 1.4 per nine innings. That’s just too many home runs for someone of his caliber and it’s a big reason why his ERA isn’t much better.
Some of Giolito’s numbers might not jump out off the page, but that’s mostly because he was significantly worse in the first half of the season than he was in the second half. Before the All-Star break, he had a 4.15 ERA and gave up 18 home runs in 104 innings. After the break, he posted a 2.65 ERA and drastically cut his home run rate. He also struck out fewer batters as his overall results improved, which could indicate an effective change in approach.
Expect Giolito’s second half success to continue and for him to build on his stellar postseason debut in 2020, when he held the Oakland Athletics to two hits and one run in seven innings (albeit in a losing effort). Plus, Giolito was nearly perfect in his only outing against the Houston Astros this season, throwing a one-run complete game on July 17. If you’re betting online and looking for value, back Giolito and the White Sox moneyline.
Wobbly September for Valdez
Valdez also made a big splash in his debut in last year’s postseason. In 24 innings (three starts and one five-inning relief appearance), he had a 1.88 ERA and helped the Astros reach the AL Championship Series.
He followed that up with a strong 2021 regular season, compiling a 3.14 ERA in 134.2 innings after missing all of April and nearly all of May with a finger fracture. Valdez was basically great all season until September, when he got roughed up in three of his five outings. He wasn’t terrible, by any means, but he struggled with his command and was uncharacteristically bad at run prevention.
The White Sox, who walk a lot, will be able to take advantage of Valdez’s bouts of wildness. The lefty walked almost four batters per nine innings, hit 11 batters and threw nine wild pitches. In the playoffs, where every base is so important, walks, hit batsmen and wild pitches take on an outsized significance. Plus, Valdez has blown past his previous high of 70.2 innings pitched in a season. He might be hitting a justifiable wall of fatigue right now. That concern is part of why the MLB lines think rather highly of the White Sox even on the road against such a stacked Astros squad.
White Sox Crush Lefties
Chicago’s offense is pretty good against all pitchers. However, the White Sox lineup’s righty-centric nature makes it even better against lefties. They have a team OPS of .775 against southpaws and Chicago’s right-handed batters have an even more impressive .821 OPS against lefties, with a .471 slugging percentage. It’s no surprise that an offense boasting José Abreu, Tim Anderson, Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez would bash lefties.
But, what sets the White Sox apart from most teams in that regard is how many switch-hitters they have. Yoán Moncada, Yasmani Grandal and Leury García are all switch-hitters (as are bench options César Hernández and Billy Hamilton), leaving only Gavin Sheets and Zack Collins as the resident lefties in Chicago’s position player group. That gives manager Tony La Russa a ton of platoon flexibility and means that against pitchers like Valdez, the White Sox are almost guaranteed to have favorable matchups up and down the order.
Valdez has been better against righties than lefties but that reverse split looks like a one-year aberration as his career numbers are much better against lefties. So, if you’re making MLB picks, put your faith in the White Sox to put up some runs against Valdez.