CLEVELAND -- Catcher Yasmani Grandal can do a number of great things for the White Sox. But he can’t predict the future as to how well they will switch gears once the playoffs begin.
“I’m not really a fortune teller, so I can’t really tell you how it will transfer over on to the postseason,” Grandal said. “The one thing about the postseason is you want a chance at being the last team standing.
“You never know what’s going to happen. You’ve seen the best team run through the postseason all the way through the World Series and win it. You’ve seen the worst team run through the postseason and win it. All you can hope for is get that ticket in and get a shot at it.”
The White Sox American League Central-clinching ticket was punched following a 7-2 victory over the Indians in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Thursday. Here’s a look at some questions about their upcoming playoff competition.
What could the postseason roster look like?
C: Yasmani Grandal
1B: José Abreu
2B: César Hernández
SS: Tim Anderson
3B: Yoán Moncada
LF: Eloy Jiménez
CF: Luis Robert
RF: Adam Engel
DH: Andrew Vaughn
SP: Lance Lynn, Carlos Rodón, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease
RP: Liam Hendriks (CL), Craig Kimbrel, Aaron Bummer, Garrett Crochet, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo López, Dallas Keuchel, Ryan Tepera
Bench: Leury García, Seby Zavala, Brian Goodwin, Billy Hamilton, Gavin Sheets
How set is this roster alignment?
There are still some things to be figured out. Right-handed reliever Evan Marshall, who threw 45 pitches in a Game 3 Wild Card Series loss to Oakland in 2020, is trying to work his way back from a right forearm injury. Right-hander José Ruiz has been solid in a middle-relief role, while the White Sox could get a third catcher and a left-handed bat on their roster if they went with Zack Collins or go with Collins over Zavala as the backup to Grandal. These are just a few examples.
Speaking of health, how is Rodón?
Rodón started Wednesday and worked five scoreless innings vs. the Reds, allowing just one hit while striking out four on 69 pitches. Manager Tony La Russa expressed caution after the start, noting that the club would monitor the southpaw in the days after his final regular-season start. Rodón's four-seam fastball velocity was down an average of 4.6 mph against Cincinnati, but he seemed unperturbed by the dip, noting that, "some days I'm not going to have it all."
Does Rodón need to be 100 percent to contribute?
It would greatly help the cause, considering Rodón has been one of the AL’s top starters this season when healthy. In pitchers such as Keuchel and López, who have worked as starters during all season and a good part of the season, respectively, the White Sox have backup for Rodón while keeping the bullpen intact. Rodón would be a definite plus for the team as long as felt right on the mound.
Is the bullpen good enough?
Hendriks has been one of the game’s best closers this year, almost unhittable after two rough outings against the Yankees starting with the Field of Dreams Game, during which Hendriks realized he was tipping pitches. Kimbrel has struggled with the White Sox, posting a 5.68 ERA in 20 games vs. a 0.49 ERA in 39 games with the Cubs. This bullpen still has the makeup to effectively shorten playoff contests to five-inning affairs for its starters.
Who will Chicago face in the ALDS?
The White Sox will play the AL West champion Astros in the AL Division Series starting on Oct. 7, and Houston has a magic number of one to have home-field advantage.
How did the White Sox play in Houston?
Maybe move on to the next question.
Seriously, how did they do?
The White Sox were swept in Houston from June 17-20. They also played that series without Jiménez and Robert, although Houston played without Alex Bregman. Houston held the season’s edge, 5-2, losing the first series after the All-Star break in Chicago.
Who were the standouts in this series?
Houston right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. finished 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 13 innings, winning one start in Houston and one in Chicago. The White Sox are 60-50 overall against right-handed starters and 25-16 against left-handed starters.
Rodón is 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA in two starts against Houston. He recorded 18 strikeouts over 14 innings and allowed just four hits.
Who has struggled against Houston?
Lynn has been a Cy Young Award candidate in his first season with the White Sox, but he allowed six runs on eight hits over four innings during his start at Minute Maid Park. Lynn has a 5-7 record and a 4.41 ERA in his career against Houston.
Who is a key position player to watch for the White Sox?
Having the entire projected Opening Day lineup together and healthy, which has rarely happened this season, is the first target. But after that accomplishment, look to Robert.
He has been a Most Valuable Player-type performer since his return from a right hip flexor tear, hitting .374 with seven homers and 26 RBIs in his first 34 games since coming off the IL on Aug. 9 -- good for a 1.005 OPS.
Can the White Sox beat Houston?
That healthy Chicago team clicking at the top of its game really can beat anyone in a best-of-five or best-of-seven series. The White Sox didn’t have much luck in Minute Maid Park this season, but those results don’t matter when the playoffs start. It should be an evenly matched contest, possibly going the full five games.
Will the home “blackout” games return for the playoffs?
That blackout game in 2008, when the White Sox beat the Twins to win the AL Central in a one-game tiebreaker, was the most exciting game I’ve ever covered. It makes sense to bring back the same idea again.
Should White Sox fans be excited? Optimistic?
Absolutely and yes. The team really is beginning its competitive window and despite a 28-29 mark after division-clinching win, Chicago is capable of dominance. Enjoy the playoff trip.