With catcher Yasmani Grandal on the injured list with lower back spasms and third baseman Yoan Moncada sidelined by right-hamstring tightness, the Chicago White Sox were without two important left-handed bats against Astros ace right-hander Justin Verlander on Saturday in Houston.
Their absences proved surmountable as the White Sox squared their three-game series against the Astros with a 7-0 victory.
The White Sox tagged Verlander for a season-high seven runs (four earned) by deftly going the opposite way, making the most of a right-handed-heavy lineup seemingly ripe for exploitation by Verlander and a Houston staff lacking a left-handed reliever.
“I’m telling you, it’s a very resilient, tough-minded, tough-heart, tough-guts club,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “The way we’ve hung in there, that’s why they have my total respect and admiration.”
Right-hander Michael Kopech (2-2, 1.92 ERA) is the scheduled starter on Sunday night as the White Sox pursue the series win. He departed his previous outing after recording two outs and making 13 pitches against the Texas Rangers on June 12 with right-knee discomfort. Kopech is 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA in five road starts this season, with 25 strikeouts against 11 walks over 23 innings.
Kopech will make his first career start and second appearance against the Astros. He recorded one strikeout in one scoreless inning of relief in a 4-0 win over the Astros on July 18, 2021.
Right-hander Cristian Javier (3-3, 3.20) will start the series finale for the Astros. He is winless in his past three starts, and in June, he’s given up seven runs on 11 hits and four walks in 9 2/3 innings against the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners. He took the loss against the Mariners on June 6 but had no decision a week later against the Rangers, who won 5-3.
Javier has never faced the White Sox in the regular season. He did work 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief against them in a 12-6 loss in Game 3 of the American League Division Series last postseason, walking a pair of batters while recording six strikeouts.
Following the conclusion of their set with the White Sox, the Astros will have the fourth of five scheduled off days this month. The sudden glut of off days came after Houston played 33 games over 34 days, a grueling stretch that challenged the depth of its bullpen.
While the rest for the bullpen arms is welcome, the scheduling extremes are a bit unusual.
“I wish they could have spread out these off days some,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “One thing I’ve noticed about this club and some clubs is sometimes it takes you a couple of days to get back into the swing of things when you’re off work for a while.
“Sometimes you can have too many days off, and you’ve got to accept them when you get them.”
–Field Level Media