Sox’ offense goes cold against Astros’ McCullers in Game 1 loss

The Sox’ offense was only able to muster one run in the loss to the Astros in Game 1 of the ALDS.

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AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith

HOUSTON — Throughout the regular season, the White Sox’s offense bludgeoned pitching staffs into submission. Even with the team missing Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez for significant periods throughout the year, when they fired on all cylinders, they were one of the best offenses in baseball.

But there were also times during the season when their high-powered offense would go dormant, leaving people scratching their heads.

Unfortunately for the Sox, that’s exactly what happened in their 6-1 Game 1 loss to the Astros on Wednesday as their offense went cold.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” manager Tony La Russa said after Wednesday’s loss. “They didn’t do much with him. ... He pitched very well.”

The Sox had no answers for Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr, who dominated over 6 2/3 innings and retired 17 of the first 20 batters he faced. The offense looked lethargic against the Astros and didn’t do much to change its fortunes. They didn’t collect their first hit until Yoan Moncada’s single in the fourth inning.

The Sox weren’t able to barrel up the baseball against McCullers Jr. and while he mixed his pitches well, it was his slider that kept them off balance.

“The righties they have in there, [Tim] Anderson, batting champion, the guys in the middle with Robert and Eloy, I mean it’s a tough lineup to navigate,” McCullers Jr. said. “But either we’re going to sit there all day and worry about this and that, how good they are or you can just lay it on the line and go after them and see what happens.”

“He’s one of the best in the league,” first baseman Jose Abreu said.

McCullers Jr.’s slider is one of the best in MLB, allowing just a .150 batting average against it this season, which was the fifth-lowest among starting pitchers. The White Sox ranked 22nd in slugging against sliders this season and didn’t have success in Wednesday’s loss.

When the Sox hit the ball in the air, it usually leads to success, but they weren’t able to do that. They hit into 13 groundouts and had only two runners reach third base, allowing McCullers Jr. to dominate without having to get swings-and-misses or work deep into counts.

The Sox finally got their offense going late, collecting six of their eighth hits in the game after the sixth inning. Abreu, who was a game-time decision dealing with an illness, drove in the Sox only run with an RBI-single in the eighth inning.

The goal for the Sox going into Game 2 is to avoid going home down 2-0 in the series and that the offense has better results. They’ll have a good matchup facing lefty Framber Valdez in Friday’s game. They’ve notoriously torched southpaws over the past two seasons and hit a .775 OPS against left-handers this season, which ranked third in the American League.

“I’m the kind of person that, when we lose, I like to focus on the positive,” Abreu said. “I think everybody tried their best today. ... But we also have to recognize the work that the Astros did.

“I think in the last few innings, we showed the kind of offense we have. The kind of offense we’ve been carrying throughout the whole season and hopefully we can carry that for tomorrow.”

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