With Game 4 of the American League Division Series postponed because of rain in Chicago on Monday, both managers had to make decisions about who to start when play resumes Tuesday. Astros manager Dusty Baker decided on Lance McCullers Jr., while White Sox skipper Tony La Russa stuck with Carlos Rodón. MLB.com reporters gathered to discuss how this could all shake out.
Scott Merkin, White Sox beat reporter: I was not. Rodón has been the best White Sox starter overall this year when healthy, and really has been one of the best starters in the game. He also has been very tough against Houston in two starts. Lance Lynn, who also has been outstanding, has struggled mightily this year and in his career vs. the Astros. They both are solid at home, and with Rodón's shoulder feeling good and ready, he makes the most sense.
Brian McTaggart, Astros beat reporter: I wasn't, either. The other option would have been Lynn, and the Astros have crushed him this year. With their season on the line, Rodón is the way to go.
Footer: The Astros’ decision was less complicated, yet still interesting. They could have stuck with José Urquidy, who they tabbed as the Game 4 starter following the Game 3 loss in Chicago on Sunday. Instead, they’re going with their horse, Lance McCullers Jr., on full rest. That’s probably the right call, do you agree? It had to be tempting to save McCullers for a possible Game 5.
Merkin: The Astros clearly are trying to finish this off in [Game] 4. And McCullers pitched very well in his one start in Chicago.
McTaggart: Absolutely. Giving your ball to your best pitcher on normal rest with a chance to win the series is the way to go. McCullers has dominated the White Sox in three starts this year, winning all three, and he's actually pitched better on the road than he has at home. If things go awry, you have lefty Framber Valdez and José Urquidy to try to piece together 27 outs in Game 5.
Footer: I get why the White Sox are starting Rodón, though the fact that he’s lost so much velocity is concerning against a team like the Astros. It’s hard to “fool” that team if you don’t have your best stuff. I’ve heard some comments pointing out that Rodón pitched well against the Reds toward the end of the regular season, but the Reds are not the Astros. What could be Rodón’s biggest hurdle in this game?
Merkin: The Astros are a great fastball-hitting team. They really are a great hitting team overall. But with less velocity being a thing for Rodón over his last few starts, he's been pitching as much as relying on that overpowering fastball. As La Russa pointed out today, if he has the velocity but no location, it doesn't matter. But if he's down a few miles an hour and moving the ball around, he should be good to go.
Merkin: The White Sox really are looking for whatever they can get from Rodón -- one inning, three innings, five innings? His last start over five innings came on July 18 against the Astros when he struck out 10 over seven innings and allowed one hit at home.
Footer: Come to think of it, the Astros performed poorly in the regular season against non-contending clubs with questionable starting pitching.
McTaggart: Yes, they have. I keep count of how many times I tweeted out stats pregame of how poor a pitcher had been doing, or how poor his last few starts have been and watch him dominate the Astros for seven innings. But this is different. Houston didn't have its top seven guys in the lineup together for most of the year and they appeared to disappear at times, offensively. There will be no lack of focus or determination against Rodón.
Footer: It’s obvious La Russa had to weigh Lynn’s overall track record this season (fantastic) against his track record against this particular opponent (suboptimal). I know anything can happen in any given game, but the fact that Lynn just doesn’t match up well with Houston, no matter who he’s playing for, had to factor into this.
Merkin: That's true. Lynn will be ready to go out of the bullpen behind Rodón, and if they get to a Game 5 in Houston, he'll be one of the candidates to start or could be working behind Lucas Giolito. Both would be on regular rest. I think it will be Giolito.
Footer: After how the bullpens were stretched in Game 3, and now that we know the pitching decisions, is there one team that benefits more over the other because of the rain?
Merkin: I think the Sox. They used their main guys to get through Game 3 after Dylan Cease only went 1 2/3 innings. So the extra day can't hurt. Ryan Tepera went two innings, Aaron Bummer went 1 2/3 innings. But at this time of the year, you're on call every day. Michael Kopech would be the only one not available after throwing 47 pitches.
McTaggart: I think the Astros, having McCullers and Valdez lined up to pitch the last two games if needed, puts them in an optimal spot. Nothing against Urquidy, who was supposed to start Game 4, but there was a reason why he was starting Game 4. Even if McCullers doesn't get it done, they'll feel good about Valdez in Game 5. Houston's bullpen was pushed in Game 3, but the extra day of rest means it's in good shape. This rainout is a good thing for the Astros.