As Tim Anderson said after Game 2, “It ain’t over yet.”
It sure isn’t.
A 12-6 marathon win had the makings of everything a White Sox fan could have hoped for in a do-or-die game for the South Siders. The offense found a groove, the bullpen turned hype into results that surely mirrors what Rick Hahn envisioned when constructing it, and even Tony La Russa seemed to push all the right buttons.
After the game, I sat to think about what my angle for this column would be. Frankly, I had too many options: The historic Tim Anderson, the Leury García Game, the bullpen, and so many more. Instead, here are some stats that defined the wild contest.
The Astros scored 21 runs and racked up 26 hits in the first 22 innings this series, but then the seemingly unstoppable force hit an unmovable object. Ryan Tepera, Aaron Bummer, Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks allowed 0 base runners in the final five innings. They struck out nine (including six straight at one point) of the final 15 batters, with only three balls leaving the infield. Houston only had one hard-hit ball in the final five innings, and one batted ball with an xBA better than .350 (the first two batters Ryan Tepera faced). In other words, the Astros’ last 13 batters never even sniffed a hit, let alone a run.
García has been an important part of the 2021 White Sox. He has his shortcomings, like all utility players, but his versatility and usual defensive competence has helped the White Sox overcome injuries this season. After a slow start at the plate, he’s hit well enough not to be a total liability in the lineup, either. That made Game 3 especially fun to watch, as he drove in four runs that changed the momentum of the game. His three-run blast gave the South Siders a 6-5 lead in the third inning, and then he doubled in an insurance run in the eighth inning.
The Astros couldn’t touch the White Sox’s sliders. Tepera, Bummer and Hendriks threw a combined 27 sliders, eliciting 16 swings and eight whiffs (50% whiff rate). It’s the most reliant Tepera has been on his slider (57% usage rate) since August 26 against the Blue Jays. Bummer and Hendriks each put significantly more spin on their sliders, too.
Or, the 22 total swings-and-misses might not have anything to do with breaking pitches.
Ryan Tepera noted the Astros being more prone to swing-and-miss tonight— James Fegan (@JRFegan) October 11, 2021
"They've 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."
All 10 players to have an at-bat recorded a hit. The White Sox recorded a franchise postseason-record 16 hits. Andrew Vaughn became the 10th player to record a hi,t by driving in an insurance run on a double to left field in the eighth inning. After a mismanaged Game 2, it was hard to dislike how Tony La Russa steered Game 3.
Craig Kimbrel retired the only batter he faced, to finish the eighth inning, and then Hendriks pitched a 1-2-3 inning to close the contest. They only threw a combined 14 pitches (Kimbrel four, Hendriks 10), meaning they should be available for any role tomorrow. If the White Sox want to turn the “Sox in 5” chants into reality, they’ll need their bullpen to maintain this success. Maybe Kimbrel getting Yuli Gurriel to ground out will get him on track for the rest of this series. Also, even with a six-run lead, it was nice to see Hendriks not mess around and retire the side in order. This win should be a confidence booster for both star closers.
As I tweeted during the game:
There’s not a shortstop I’d rather have than Tim Anderson. He fits this team perfectly and shows up when it matters. #WhiteSox— Jeremy Karll (@KoreanSox) October 11, 2021
I’m not too naive to believe he’s the most talented shortstop in baseball, but his personality makes the perfect leader for a young, fun bunch with lots of personalities. He encourages everyone to be themselves, and on the field, he lives for big moments. Look at the Field of Dreams walk-off home run, or even more importantly, his performances in the postseason. The moment never looks too big for Anderson, and that’s impressive for someone relatively new to this stage. Anderson has a record 16 hits in six postseason games.
After his last hit, Tim Anderson now has 16 hits in his 6 career postseason games (through 3 today). That is the most hits over any 6-game span in MLB postseason history. pic.twitter.com/vXcpXVk66A— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 11, 2021
Please stop hitting José Abreu.
Liam Hendriks’ slowest fastball was 97.9 mph on Sunday, but that was still faster than his season average (97.7 mph). You think he was pumped to pitch in front of the “Blackout” crowd?
Your eyes weren’t deceiving you if you thought Aaron Bummer’s slider had significantly more movement. It had 2,677 rpm, which is a notable uptick from his season average of 2,471. He has topped that mark only once this season, when he tossed a scoreless frame against Texas on September 17. Bummer posted 2,700 rpm on that day.
The White Sox need similar gaudy numbers to bring this series back to Houston.