Sox rally to win Grifol's debut: 'Fun day all around'

March 31st, 2023

HOUSTON -- Pedro Grifol’s uniform needed a thorough washing Thursday night following the 3-2 victory for his White Sox over the defending World Series champion Astros on Opening Day at Minute Maid Park. 

But it was a good kind of dirty, with his uniform covered in shaving cream and beer following the postgame celebration for his first career victory as a manager.

“First we had to do a little thing out there with the putt-putt golf,” a smiling Grifol said. “Then they put me in a cart and rolled me into the showers and put the showers on, and here we go. It was fun."

“He looked like a little kid for a little while,” first baseman said. “It was awesome.”

Grifol, who spent the past 10 years with the Royals and 12 before that as part of the Mariners' organization, was put in charge of the White Sox turnaround after the 2022 campaign left them at .500 and out of the playoffs. But Grifol has focused more on building a culture within this group, winning and even losing the right way.

Sure, there were issues on Thursday. The White Sox were 0-for-9 hitting with runners in scoring position before Vaughn connected on a 0-2 pitch from closer Ryan Pressly for a double, scoring Tim Anderson and Luis Robert Jr. for a 3-1 lead in the ninth. Yoán Moncada was thrown out trying for third as the first out in the eighth after reaching on a José Abreu fielding error, coming shortly before Yasmani Grandal’s game-tying home run to right.

Those missteps or miscues didn’t stop the White Sox.

“I wouldn't want it any other way,” Grifol said. “That was a great game all the way around from the first inning to the last inning. A lot of moving parts to it even though there was just three or four moves.

“These guys played great, man. They responded. They had great energy, and it's on them, the ones that play the game. That was a really well-fought game.”

Well-fought, but not exactly full of offense. Credit goes to Houston’s Framber Valdez and White Sox ace Dylan Cease for that dearth with the bats.

Cease yielded a leadoff single to Jeremy Peña and proceeded to retire 19 straight before hitting Yordan Alvarez with a pitch with one out in the seventh. Alvarez eventually scored on a wild pitch for Houston’s lone run off Cease. He threw 62 of his 86 pitches for strikes over 6 1/3 innings, and his 10 strikeouts matched Jack McDowell (1991) for the highest total in franchise history during the White Sox first team game in a season.

“That’s so impressive watching him pitch,” Vaughn said of Cease. “It’s unbelievable what he can do with the baseball.”

“I think this one and probably my [near] no-hitter game are 1-2,” said the 2022 American League Cy Young runner-up. “That’s about as sharp as I’ve ever been. Really even the last couple of weeks I felt locked in and so I just followed that process and trusted in it.”

This victory featured rookie Oscar Colás getting his first career hit via a pinch-hit single in the seventh, and Reynaldo López recording his first career save despite having to be reminded the game was over after he struck out Yainer Diaz to end it. The White Sox also did it without Abreu, who singled in his four at-bats playing for a team other than Chicago for the first time in his 10-year-career.

Abreu joked with teammates on the field before the game and even hugged Colás at first after his hit, but both sides have moved on to a new era. The White Sox began with a hard-fought victory for Grifol.

“Just the way we won it, too,” Cease said. “We had so many opportunities, and we just kept fighting and finally we did it at the end. Couldn’t be a better start to the season than that, really.”

"I caught myself realizing it's here, that the time is here. Not 'I'm finally getting my shot.' That I wasn't thinking about,” Grifol said. “But I did catch myself a couple of times saying I'm managing a damn good ballclub here, guys out there that are extremely talented … Today was a fun day all around."