For the first time in this playoff series, the White Sox have something of a leg up on the Houston Astros. For at least one night. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve is determined to lead the Astros deep into the playoffs. Again. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Kyle Tucker gives the Astros the most dangerous seventh — or sixth — hitter in baseball. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros catcher Martin Maldonado is a true difference maker for this pitching staff. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Luis Garcia is a still underrated weapon for the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros manager Dusty Baker has kept the franchise's winning ways going, but getting his team out of Fenway still in the series might be his greatest challenge. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros rookie Jake Meyers brought his parents alone for the postseason fun. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Luis Robert and the rest of the White Sox hitters are determined to do enough damage against the Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Kyle Tucker is having a playoffs to remember. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Aaron Bummer and the rest of the White Sox pitching staff had few answers against the Astros in Minute Maid. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
White Sox relievers like Aaron Bummer are supposed to give Chicago an edge. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Tim Anderson is a dynamic force against most teams. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The White Sox's powerful lineup is always a concern. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Luis Garcia and Martin Maldonado know all about going to work. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Michael Brantley is still in Houston — and still hitting well over .300. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Cristian Javier gives the Astros an important arm out of the bullpen. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Urquidy's slider can provide plenty of strikeouts. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
CHICAGO — As if the Chicago White Sox and their fans didn’t hit the Houston Astros hard enough during a Game 3 runway, White Sox reliever Ryan Tepera delivered a shot below the belt in the postgame. Tepera implied that the Astros are still engaged in some Minute Maid Park funny business along the lines of the infamous electronic sign stealing scandal that rocked the franchise.
“I mean, you know, it is what it is,” Tepera says. “They’ve obviously had a reputation of doing some sketchy stuff over there. We can say it’s a little bit of a difference. I think you saw the swings and misses tonight compared to the first two games at Minute Maid.”
So much for this series coming to any kind of civil conclusion. After a game in which the Astros and White Sox players appear to be regularly chirping at each other from their respective dugouts, Tepera throws some serious fuel onto the fire.
“Obviously, it’s a different game here at our field,” says Tepera, who went to Brazoswood High School, just under an hour from Houston. “You play at Minute Maid (Park) and they’re doing something over there that’s a little different. Shows you how many swings and misses they had tonight compared to Minute Maid. That’s why you have homefield advantage.”
The only evidence Tepera offers for this new cheating insinuation/accusation is the fact the White Sox were able to strike the Astros out a whopping 16 times and induce 22 swings and misses during their 12-6 wipeout of Houston in Chicago’s home ballpark. The Astros “only” struck out a combined 16 times in the two games at Minute Maid.
Yes, in terms of real evidence even climate change deniers have more to work with than this. But it does not matter how much (or in this case how little to nonexistent) evidence Tepera has. His just bringing back the specter of the Astros’ 2017 cheating scandal will ensure that Jose Altuve and Co. have to answer questions about it.
Yes, the hate meter in this series is now at Level Red.
It should make for a beyond intense and interesting pushed back Game 4 Tuesday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Astros, still up two games to one, will be determined to end this series — and shut up the White Sox — before things can reach a winner-take-all Game 5. The White Sox will be desperate to keep their season alive and force a return trip to Minute Maid.
And Chicago fans probably will be excited to add some more four letter words next to Jose Altuve’s name.
There are entire Netflix series shorter than this game.
“This place was rocking tonight,” White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal says. “I haven’t seen it (like this). These fans are incredible. So the fact that everybody was here, it was great. All blacked out. It was awesome.”
Unless you’re wearing an Astros uniform.
The Sport of Hating the Astros
The Astros are booed during the introductions. Loudly. They’re booed during almost every at-bat. Alex Bregman is hit with a “Cheater! Cheater!” rant as he digs in against White Sox starter Dylan Cease in the top of the first. Altuve gets the cheater chant twice. Then, he gets two rounds of “Fuck Altuve! Fuck Altuve!”
On this night, The South Side is a loud, crude place that wants to get in your face. At least, the Chicago fans throw in a “Yankees Suck!” chant for good measure.
By the eighth inning, White Sox all-star Tim Anderson is dancing on the top step of the dugout, waving his own towel right along with the nearly 40,000 of them in the stands. Having serenaded the Houston Astros’ best hitters with hate all night, the Chicago White Sox fans are now just giddy. Heck, they might even consider offering Altuve a slice of deep dish for half a second at this point.
The Houston Astros are going to face pressure in this first round playoff series after all. This marathon of a White Sox hitting party ensures that. Now, this delayed Tuesday afternoon Game 4 comes with real urgency for these Houston postseason regulars. The urgency of avoiding a one game elimination scenario.
These best-of-five divisional series are particularly fraught with danger for the favorites. Just ask the Tampa Bay Rays. Or Milwaukee Brewers.
“We’ve been here before,” Astros catcher Martin Maldonado says. “It’s not the first time we lose a game. I think last year we lost on the third game against the Oakland As (in the best-of-five playoffs before winning Game 4). So I think we’re going to go out there and play hard like we always do.”
“I mean, you know, it is what it is. They’ve obviously had a reputation of doing some sketchy stuff over there.” — Sox reliever Ryan Tepera on the Astros
Both teams will play beyond hard. Tepera’s comments are only adding another flamethrower of intensity. The question may be if the Astros will have enough pitching to close this series out on The South Side.
The days of the Astros having two frontline aces — a la Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole — are gone. For at least now. This Astros team cannot just rely on multiple dominant performances from its starters under the pressure of the playoffs. It’s rookie Luis Garcia for Game 3 — and he cannot get out of the third inning. In fact, Astros manager Dusty Baker lifts Garcia in the middle of an at-bat.
In Game 4, with the first pitch originally scheduled for barely 14 hours after Game 3 ended before the rain changed everything, the Astros will now go with their 1A ace Lance McCullers Jr., continuing the franchise’s trend of going all in to try and end a series as soon as possible that dates back to using Justin Verlander in relief in Game 4 of the divisional series in 2017. The Astros do not want a winner-take-all Game 5. Of course, if McCullers should lose Tuesday afternoon, the Astros will have to try and win that Game 5 without him.
Yes, this series is certainly not lacking in drama. Game 3 is almost a mini series of its own.
This is an odyssey of a game that almost threatens to conjure up lengthy visions of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s longest five set match.Forget breakfast at Wimbledon. How about dinner, a midnight snack and an early demented breakfast on The South Side. The first three innings of this baseball game take two hours alone. And every time you think you have it figured out, there’s a new big twist. Usually brought about by a big swing.
The Astros take a 5-1 lead on Kyle Tucker’s soaring home run into the left field stands in the top of the third. Chicago comes back with two majestic home runs in the bottom of the third, taking a 6-5 lead on Leury Garcia’s 436 foot blast into the two-tiered green grass wall over the center field fence. The stadium all but threatens to topple with black-clad fans, waving their black towels and screaming their lungs out.
Then, the Astros get three straight singles from Altuve, Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman to tie the game right back. It looks like Dusty Baker’s team will just not die a la Michael Myers (who actually has died in several movies). Bregman’s single knots it a 6, Guaranteed Rate Field settles back into an uneasy murmur.
Until the White Sox turn around and put up three more runs to take the lead right back in the bottom of the fourth inning. Yes, it’s 9-6 in the fourth inning. There are entire Netflix series shorter than this game, which clocks in at four hours and 27 minutes.
The White Sox pound out 16 hits in that timespan, outscore the Astros 6-0 from the bottom of the fourth inning on. And none of their fans seem to leave early. The party scene extends up the road to Maxwell Street Depot, the Chicago institution of polish sausages and pork sandwiches that’s open 24 hours. It’s a good Sunday in Chicago to be out late.
Everyone is feeling good in the Windy City. Well, except maybe Cubs fans.
“I was traded over here from the Cubs and was brought here to win a championship and be a part of a great bullpen,” says Tepera. who throws two innings of no hit ball against Dusty Baker’s team adding insult to. . . well, insult.
This is a party that the Astros definitely want to stop. One that is already getting nasty.