One down and one to go. The White Sox won their first playoff game in 12 years Tuesday afternoon, 4-1 against the Oakland Athletics. Lucas Giolito pitched six perfect innings and home runs by Adam Engel, José Abreu (who else?), and Yasmani Grandal provided the offense. Not to understate it, but yesterday was a very good day.
Giolito did what aces do in the playoffs, even if it was a little stressful in the 1st inning. Maybe not for Giolito, but for fans. We haven’t had much practice watching playoff baseball. Two of the first three batters hit the ball hard, putting lumps in throats and knots in stomachs. The next five innings, including striking out the side in the 6th, were just masterful. Even giving up the perfect game in the 7th, it was just one hit and the Sox took a three-run lead into the 8th.
Giolito performed like a number one starter and Abreu performed like a potential MVP, going 2-for-4 and providing the key home run with Tim Anderson on base. That combination, Anderson getting on and Abreu knocking him in, has been the machine that drives the White Sox offense this year. Engel, again showing why he should start instead of Norman Mazara, stepped up and got the scoring started. Grandal provided a little insurance with a solo shot in the 8th and the White Sox had a four-run lead with six outs to go.
If there was any area of concern around the game, it was with Ricky Renteria. During the in-game interview (which is really stupid during the playoffs), Renteria seemed particularly tight. The technical difficulties surely didn’t help, but the White Sox manager looked like he was facing a firing squad. Not to read too much into it — after all, it’s his first time in the postseason too — but if he was coming across as nervous in those 30 seconds, it begs the question of whether the players are picking up on it as well.
The greater cause for concern was Renteria staying with his starter into the 8th. Giolito promptly walked Mark Canha and gave up a long single to Jake Lamb, letting Canha to advance to third. The bullpen had already gotten up the previous inning, so it was shocking — even to the ESPN crew — that Giolito came back for another go. Luckily, Evan Marshall and Aaron Bummer held the Athletics to a run.
Winning is a great disinfectant and Alex Colomé came in with a cannister of Lysol wipes to take care of things. Getting a W sure as hell beats losing the first game and it’s hard not to be at least a bit optimistic with Dallas Kuechel taking the mound Wednesday, though nothing feels finished. Nerves will replace any cockiness by first pitch, then it will be another three hours of stress. But that’s much better than being out of it and waiting for the next season to start.