Playing the game well? ‘Must be an Astros thing,’ White Sox manager Tony La Russa says

Houston is taking everything from the Sox — their momentum, their mojo, their lunch money — and will be all too happy to sweep them.

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Division Series - Chicago White Sox v Houston Astros - Game Two

Yordan Alvarez slides home safely in Game 2.

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

There he was, clad in Astros gear and chugging a can of beer on the Minute Maid Park video board like he owned the place. And whipping Houston fans into a frenzy.

Hey, look, everybody! It’s Geoff Blum! You know, the White Sox hero who hit the winning home run in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series — against the Astros — and, oh, by the way, is immortalized with a bronze statue right outside Guaranteed Rate Field!

But the Astros are taking everything from the Sox so far in an American League Division Series that will end in a sweep if the Sox don’t dig deep Sunday in Game 3 and find a way to stay alive.

The Astros have taken away the Sox’ extra-base-hit power. They’ve taken away any pitching edge the Sox might have thought they had. They’ve taken the Sox’ momentum, their mojo, their lunch money — and even their Blum.

OK, so Blum didn’t even play a full season with the Sox. OK, so he did two stints in Houston as a player and happens to be the Astros’ TV color analyst. OK, so most Sox fans wouldn’t recognize Blum if he knocked on their front door. Yes, without a mask on.

But, man, do the Astros have no shame? Is there no bottom to their greed? Is there anything at all the Sox have that the Astros don’t?

Blum chug-a-lugged in the stands during Game 1. He threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 2 to his play-by-play man, Todd Kalas, son of the late, great Harry. By the time the Astros had beaten the daylights out of the Sox for a second consecutive game, I was wondering what might have happened if Game 3 were in Houston instead of Chicago.

Would Frank Thomas lead the crowd in a stirring rendition of “Deep in the Heart of Texas”? Would A.J. Pierzynski have his hair dyed orange and blue? Would Barack Obama agree to serve as Dusty Baker’s honorary bench coach?

Speaking of Baker, the Astros’ manager was asked Saturday on the South Side, before his team got in an off-day, on-field workout, about the criticism of counterpart Tony La Russa that was bouncing around after Game 2. The criticism was mainly about La Russa’s use of his bullpen as a 4-2 Sox lead turned into a 9-4 deficit.

Baker and La Russa have had their share of beefs between them, of course, but this wasn’t the time to pile on.

“Well, I don’t pay much attention to rhetoric anymore,” Baker said. “You know, No. 2, I’ve gotten blamed myself sometimes. . . . Some of it you might earn, and some of it was out of your control, you know? But you have to stand together as a unit and not pass any judgment or pass any blame because there’s enough to go around, you know?”

Baker mentioned La Russa’s predecessor, Rick Renteria, later in his comment, remembering the heat Renteria took for his decisions in the Sox’ series loss in Oakland last postseason. At least Renteria won a playoff game before he was fired. La Russa is one bad Sunday from being dump-trucked out of the playoffs like he wasn’t even there.

Are we sure Dylan Cease is the right choice to start Game 3 for the Sox?

“He’s the right choice,” La Russa said matter-of-factly. “I’m fired up to watch him. We all are.”

Are we sure Craig Kimbrel should get into another game? Are we sure it was best to leave Michael Kopech unused in Houston? Are we sure Carlos Rodon doesn’t need to be warming up, like, this very second?

Yes, we are. Well, La Russa is. On all of it. That’s how the man rolls.

For a second straight day, La Russa raved about the Sox’ “effort” in Game 2.

“It was special,” he said. “[The Astros] made some plays that gave them the edge, but there wasn’t anything wrong with the way we competed. A lot of the stuff that we made happen or almost made happen is the way we’re supposed to go about it. . . .

‘‘If we play just as hard as we did [Friday], we’ll have a great chance [in Game 3].”

Isn’t effort supposed to be a given in October? Especially for a team led by a Hall of Famer who claims to manage each spring-training game like it’s the last game of his life?

There are no such questions about the Astros, who are, according to La Russa, “exactly” like a team he used to battle often when he was managing the Cardinals. A team with a heck of a core: Lance Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Jeff Kent, Carlos Beltran. A few of those guys were on the field in Houston to watch Blum’s Game 3 homer go over the wall.

“Professional hitters, good hitters down the lineup,” La Russa said. “They run the bases well. They play good defense.

“Must be an Astros thing.”

Must be nice.

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