Two tough calls for Grifol in another first for Sox skipper
HOUSTON -- It’s two days into a 162-game Major League Baseball season.
That’s a mantra White Sox fans should repeat following a 6-3 loss to the Astros on Friday at Minute Maid Park on a night when the 2022 World Series winners received their championship rings. Houston scored six unanswered runs to erase a three-run deficit heading into the bottom of the sixth.
One night after Pedro Grifol earned his first victory as White Sox manager, he suffered his first tough setback at the helm. There will be plenty more of both over the next six months.
“We’re 1-1. That’s it. It’s two games in,” said White Sox starter Lance Lynn, who yielded two runs over 5 2/3 innings with six strikeouts and four walks. “Everybody is playing hard and that’s all you ask.”
“This is a very talented team. A very good group,” said third baseman Yoán Moncada, through interpreter Billy Russo. “We have people with experience here. We have what we need in order to have a good season and to keep playing good baseball.”
Game 2 of a long season was not too early for White Sox players to put blame upon themselves in defeat.
Lynn battled through a night where he was just missing with some of his pitches, which is not uncommon for a first regular-season start, but he still made the big pitches to hold Houston scoreless into the sixth. With two outs, José Abreu singled and Kyle Tucker launched a no-doubter to center field cutting the lead to 3-2.
“I have to get through that inning,” Lynn said. “If I get through that inning, we’ve got a chance to win. Put the bullpen in a bad spot. They had to come get me out of the inning, and it didn’t go our way after that. If I get through the sixth, it definitely gives us a better chance.
“When you don’t go six innings, you didn’t do your job as a starter. So, I didn’t do my job tonight and it cost us the game.”
The game turned completely in the seventh when Kendall Graveman walked No. 9 hitter Martín Maldonado with two outs and nobody on base. Graveman was replaced by southpaw Jake Diekman with the bases loaded and two outs, with Diekman brought in to face Yordan Alvarez. After falling behind at 1-0 in the count, Alvarez connected on a sinker that didn’t sink for a bases-clearing, three-run double.
Two tough calls for Grifol -- bringing in Graveman on back-to-back nights to open the season and then going lefty/lefty for Diekman vs. Alvarez. Two calls Grifol felt good about postgame.
“We talk to these guys before the game. He was ready to do that,” Grifol said of Graveman. “He threw 11 pitches yesterday. He felt good.
“Alvarez is just a good hitter,” added Grifol of the Diekman matchup. “He left a fastball out over the plate a little bit, and [Alvarez] made a good swing on it. I liked the matchup, for sure.”
Grifol has to like what he’s seen from Tim Anderson -- the All-Star shortstop has two multihit games and has been on base six times. Grifol has to like Eloy Jiménez delivering two run-scoring doubles on Friday, after Yasmani Grandal launched a game-tying home run in Thursday’s opener.
And Moncada looks like the Moncada of old. He had three hits and an RBI in the loss, building off his all-tournament selection in the World Baseball Classic. Moncada’s success is imperative for the White Sox to bounce back in 2023.
“He’s seeing the ball really well,” Grifol said. “Moncada is playing really good baseball with a lot of energy.”
“I’ve been able to carry that momentum to the season,” Moncada said. “I’ve been working the same way.”
The White Sox would have preferred to take a 2-0 mark into the final two games of this opening series. But it’s two games, and the White Sox are feeling good about how they are playing.
“Obviously you never want that to happen,” Graveman said of the late loss. “But you've got to continue to work and get better. Somebody's going to pick us up tomorrow and let's go try to win a series and win a game. We've still got two ahead of us."