Astros and White Sox pitching decisions at ALDS roundtable

Alyson Footer, editor / moderator: The announcement of the postponement of Game 4 to Tuesday due to the rain presented some interesting options for both managers. The White Sox have decided to stick with Carlos Rodón, rather than go with Lance Lynn at full rest. Were you surprised by this decision?

Scott Merkin, White Sox beat reporter: I was not. Rodón was the White Sox’s best starter this year when he was in good health, and was truly one of the best starters in the game. He was also very tough against Houston in two starts. Lance Lynn, who has also been remarkable, has struggled mightily this year and in his career against the Astros. They’re both solid at home, and with Rodón’s shoulder feeling good and ready, it makes perfect sense.

Brian McTaggart, Astros beat reporter: I wasn’t either. The other option would have been Lynn, and the Astros crushed him this year. With their season on the line, Rodón is the way to go.

Footer: The Astros’ decision was less complicated, but still interesting. They could have stayed with José Urquidy, whom they named as the Game 4 starter following the Game 3 loss to Chicago on Sunday. Instead, they go with their horse, Lance McCullers Jr., to complete rest. This is probably the right call, do you agree? It must have been tempting to save McCullers for a possible Game 5.

Merkin: The Astros are clearly trying to get it over with [Game] 4. And McCullers pitched really well in his only start in Chicago.

McTaggart: Absoutely. Giving your ball to your best pitcher at normal rest with a chance to win the streak is the way to go. McCullers has dominated the White Sox in three starts this year, winning all three, and he’s actually pitched better on the road than at home. If things go wrong, you’ve got lefties Framber Valdez and José Urquidy to try and collect 27 outs in Game 5.

Footer: I understand why the White Sox are starting Rodón, although the fact that he lost so much velocity is concerning against a team like the Astros. It’s hard to “cheat” this team if you don’t have your best assets. I’ve heard comments pointing out that Rodón fought well against the Reds towards the end of the regular season, but the Reds are not the Astros. What could be Rodón’s biggest obstacle in this game?

Merkin: The Astros are a great fast hitting team. They’re a really great batting team overall. But with less speed for Rodón in his final starts, he threw as much as he leaned on that overpowered fastball. As La Russa pointed out today, if he has the speed but no location, it doesn’t matter. But if he’s a few miles an hour and he’s moving the ball, he should be good to go.

Merkin: The White Sox are really looking for everything they can get from Rodón – one run, three runs, five runs? His last start in five innings came on July 18 against the Astros when he struck out 10 strikes in seven innings and allowed a home hit.

Footer: Come to think of it, the Astros have performed poorly in the regular season against uncompetitive clubs with a questionable starting pitcher.

McTaggart: Yes they have. I count the number of times I’ve tweeted pre-game stats about a pitcher’s poor performance, or how poor his last starts have been and watch him dominate the Astros for seven innings. But it is different. Houston didn’t have its top seven roster together for most of the year and they seemed to disappear at times, offensively. There will be no lack of focus or determination against Rodón.

Footer: Obviously La Russa must have weighed Lynn’s overall record this season (fantastic) against his record against this particular opponent (sub-optimal). I know anything can happen in any game, but the fact that Lynn just doesn’t fit Houston well no matter who he plays for, had to be taken into account.

Merkin: It’s true. Lynn will be ready to come out of the box behind Rodón, and if they get to Game 5 in Houston, he will be one of the candidates to start or could work behind Lucas Giolito. Both would be at regular rest. I think it will be Giolito.

Footer: After the way the relievers were stretched in Game 3, and now that we know the pitching decisions, is there one team that benefits the other more because of the rain?

Merkin: I think the Sox. They used their main players to complete Game 3 after Dylan Cease only played 1 2/3 inning. So the extra day can’t hurt. Ryan Tepera played two innings, Aaron Bummer played 1 2/3. But at this time of year, you are on call every day. Michael Kopech is said to be the only one not available after throwing 47 shots.

McTaggartQ .: I think the Astros, having McCullers and Valdez lined up to start the last two games if necessary, puts them in an optimal position. Nothing against Urquidy, who was supposed to start Game 4, but there was a reason he was starting Game 4. Even if McCullers doesn’t, they’ll feel good with Valdez in Game 5. The reliever box of Houston was pushed. Game 3, but the extra day off means he’s in good shape. This rain is good for the Astros.

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