The White Sox will open the American League Division Series on Thursday at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Entering Saturday’s games, the Astros’ magic number to clinch home-field advantage was one, so a win for them or a White Sox loss would decide where the first round of the playoffs would begin.
Though the Sox beat the Tigers 5-4 Saturday, the Astros won 10-4 against the Athletics, so the Sox will start the best-of-five division series with two games in Texas.
When they last played in Houston on June 17-20, the Sox were swept in four games. It’s worth remembering that they were without Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, and when the Sox played the Astros in Chicago in July, they won the series.
“You cannot predict any series in the postseason,” manager Tony La Russa said. “Obviously, we’d have liked to start at home. But if we were starting here, we’d do the same thing [and] play as hard as we can.”
Marshall doubtful for first round
Evan Marshall (flexor strain) threw a simulated game, but his status for the ALDS against the Astros is still uncertain.
Marshall has been on the injured list since June 29, and how he feels on Sunday will determine if he is available once the division series starts on Thursday. The main test will be whether he believes he is prepared to throw on back-to-back days.
“The playoffs, you’ve got to be ready to throw five times in five games,” Marshall said. “Maybe that’s not on the table for Round 1. I hope it is, but if I continue to progress the way that I am and push through what I’m dealing with, maybe I’m able to help the team out for round two.”
Marshall’s velocity was consistently around 90-91 mph, he said, and he expected that in a game he would be up a few ticks from there. Being 100% healthy isn’t going to be necessary for Marshall to be up for doing his part in the postseason.
“There’s certainly still something going on in there,” he said of his throwing arm.
Happy with too many options
La Russa had outfielder Adam Engel in his starting lineup and intends to write him in again on Sunday. In the final two games, La Russa is weighing his choices for his postseason rosters.
On that front, he has the good problem of a lot of options.
“Harder is when you don’t have options. That’s harder,” La Russa said. “When you have more options and you almost have too many good players, that’s a dream come true for a coaching staff and a manager.”
The Sox will have a team workout Tuesday, and La Russa said he plans to have a simulated game to give players such as Engel and Andrew Vaughn the chance for some at-bats against taxi-squad pitchers.
Engel, Vaughn, and Leury Garcia all create options for the Sox at the plate, but La Russa also wants to keep them ready because of what they can do with their gloves.
“They have offensive plusses, but defensively they’re exceptional,” La Russa said. “This is baseball, where offense and defense, if you can do both, you’re extra valuable.”