With fans 'rocking,' White Sox roll, force G4

October 12th, 2021

CHICAGO -- The situation looked bleak for the White Sox after 2 1/2 innings during Game 3 of the AL Division Series against the Astros on Sunday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Houston held a four-run lead, not to mention a two-games-to-none advantage in the series, and the crazy, energetic blackout crowd of 40,288 had been silenced.

But the White Sox not only came back to claim a 12-6 victory, keeping their season alive, but did so in a fashion boding well momentum-wise for a Game 4 whose first pitch is at 2:37 p.m. CT on Monday. As for what changed in the third for the White Sox?

Manager Tony La Russa said nothing.

“The guys were, ‘Hey, we got a lot of game. A lot of game. We're going to keep playing. We're going to play nine,’” La Russa said. “They're going to play nine. That's the way they are. It's really a tough-minded bunch, and sometimes you get rewarded with a comeback like that, but it's just the way we've been.”

They did so while getting only 1 2/3 innings and 44 pitches from starting pitcher Dylan Cease, whose three walks and three runs allowed contributed to the Astros’ 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the third. They did so with a two-run home run from and a three-run homer from during a five-run third, ending a stretch of 20 straight singles for the American League Central champs’ offense.

And they did it with expert bullpen work, the same sort of necessary relief which pretty much eluded the Astros.

Expert, as in 16 up and 16 down over the last 5 1/3 innings. Ryan Tepera threw two scoreless innings and Aaron Bummer added 1 2/3, striking out seven combined. Despite Michael Kopech allowing three runs over 2 1/3 innings in his first appearance of the series, he struck out Yordan Alvarez with a high fastball out of the zone on a 3-2 pitch to strand two runners after Houston tied the game in the top of the fourth.

Kyle Tucker got to Kopech for a two-run homer in the top of the third. But as Kopech came into the dugout, Grandal made a prediction regarding the game’s outcome to the young hurler eventually coming true.

“I told him I've been here before. We're going to come back and we're going to win it,” Grandal said. “I don't think he really believed me until he saw that we actually came back, so we've had plenty of games during the year where we've been down early by a lot of runs, and we've been able to come back and take the lead, so today was no different.”

“It's a good feeling. It's fun,” Tepera said. “Man, that's what we live for. We're competitors, and we go out and try to compete. That's the top of the league right there.”

Kopech threw 47 pitches, so based on the pattern of usage for the right-hander this season, he wouldn’t be available behind Carlos Rodón Monday as the White Sox try to extend their season again and force a Game 5 back in Houston on Wednesday. But everyone else will be ready to go in front of another frenzied crowd.

That crowd support and the fact that many fans stayed until the end for a 4-hour, 27-minute game did not go unnoticed by La Russa or the players.

“This place was rocking tonight,” Grandal said. “I haven't seen it -- these fans are incredible, so the fact that everybody was here, it was great. All blacked out. It was awesome. Hopefully we'll have it tomorrow again, and, you know, keep rocking.”

Monday’s forecast calls for afternoon rain, but that outlook won’t slow the momentum gained by the White Sox on Sunday. Houston, meanwhile, comes with the same goal of needing one win to reach its fifth straight ALCS.

“They know. They know the importance of tomorrow. They know the importance of today,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “I'm not worried about it. The momentum goes day to day, and, you know, we've been in the game so long, you see one day you don't get any hits, and the next day you get all the hits that you want.”

“We know we got some offense, and if we can hold them down, we know we got a shot,” La Russa said. “Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't, but, I mean, it was electric in that dugout. Nobody was giving in.”