The first two games of the ALDS matchup between the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros haven’t gone how the South Siders had hoped. With the series shifting back to the Windy City, the Chicago Cubs crosstown rivals are one game from elimination, trailing two games to none in the best-of-seven series.
In Game 2 on Friday, things got out of hand late for the Sox – which was precisely the thing they hoped to avoid when they bolstered their bullpen via a pair of trades with the Cubs. Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel were supposed to be anchors alongside an already-impressive mix of relievers, led by All-Star closer Liam Hendriks.
Instead, Kimbrel has been abysmal for the Sox – who gave up a pair of up-and-coming young talents in Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer in the trade. The eight-time All-Star closer turned in a 5.09 ERA in 24 appearances for the White Sox this season, serving, for the most part, as a setup man rather than the ninth-inning guy.
For whatever reason, Kimbrel has failed to adjust to pitching in a spot other than the closer’s role – and that issue bore its ugly head yet again on Friday, with Carlos Correa torching a two-run double off the right-hander and Kyle Tucker following later in the inning with an opposite-field two-run shot to blow things wide open.
"“Again, I hate doing it, but you take it however you want to,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “It’s not an explanation or an excuse. It’s not his situation. He willingly got ready to come in there and pitch. It’s a different situation.”"
You hate to see Kimbrel struggle like this again. Cubs fans undoubtedly remember how rocky of a start he got off to back in 2019 when he joined the team midway through the season. That year, he limped to a 6.53 ERA in 17 appearances – a stark contrast to what he’d done to that point in his career.
He started to figure things out near the end of the shortened 2020 season before really re-establishing himself this year. Prior to the trade to the Sox, Kimbrel made 39 appearances and worked to a 0.49 ERA and 1.10 FIP with the North Siders.
Now, it’s all hands on deck. Maybe the White Sox can get some home cooking going. But so far, they’ve looked utterly overmatched by Houston – and now, their season hangs by a thread.