PREVIEW: Astros looking to bounce back, even opening series with White Sox

Mar 30, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros left fielder Yordan Alvarez (44) hits a home runduring the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Astros looking to bounce back, even opening series with White Sox

After a 3-2 loss on Opening Day that saw the Astros finish with just four hits, Houston is looking to get even on Friday night. Framber Valdez delivered five scoreless innings on the mound for the Astros, but the White Sox broke through late against Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly. Yordan Alvarez pulled Houston to within a run in the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run, but the Astros’ ninth-inning rally came up short.

Fans in attendance at Minute Maid Park Friday night will receive a replica World Series trophy as the Astros officially celebrate their 2022 World Series title and players receive their championship rings. Jason Castro will throw out the first pitch, Lyle Lovett will sing the National Anthem, and Paul Wall will say, “Play Ball!” on what ought to be an electric, Texas-sized night at the ballpark.

Right-hander Cristian Javier is the scheduled starter for Houston. He finished 11-9 with a 2.54 ERA over 30 appearances (25 starts) in a breakout 2022 season.

Javier recorded 194 strikeouts, tied for seventh in the American League, despite logging only 148 2/3 innings. He also was the starting pitcher in a pair of combined no-hitters, including Game 4 of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Javier has faced the White Sox once previously, allowing one run on two hits and four walks with five strikeouts over five innings in a 4-3 win on June 19, 2022.

With All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve sidelined for two months following surgery on his fractured right thumb, the Houston lineup struggled Thursday. The bottom four hitters in the order had a particularly rough evening finishing 1-for-13 with five strikeouts. Rookie designated hitter Yainer Diaz struck out twice, including to end the game, and stranded four base runners.

“I’d rather have him overeager than under-eager and taking pitches,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Diaz. “But that’s how he is, and he’ll learn from it because … we believe that he can hit. He’s hit everywhere he’s been, and this is the first game.

“It is a learning experience. It’s game No. 1. We’re going to try to mix and match and try to find out the best matchups for who we’re facing. We faced a pretty good pitcher. We just lost.”

Pedro Grifol, first-year manager for the Chicago White Sox, earned his first career victory on Thursday over the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros by resisting the urge to do too much when decision-making moments arose.

Grifol utilized one pinch-hitter by summoning rookie outfielder Oscar Colas with one out in the top of the seventh inning — Colas responded with his first career hit — and made three pitching changes after right-hander Dylan Cease pitched brilliantly into the seventh inning. Relievers Aaron Blummer, Kendall Graveman, and Reynaldo Lopez weren’t perfect, but they were effective enough.

The White Sox finished 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 base runners. But they delivered late. Yasmani Grandal tied it with a solo home run with two outs in the eighth inning, and Andrew Vaughn hit a two-run double with one out in the ninth.

By letting the game play out and avoiding unnecessary personnel changes, Grifol tasted victory.

“These guys are good hitters,” Grifol said. “We’re facing some pretty damn good pitching. They’re world champions out there. So the last thing I want to do is overmanage. That’s the last thing I want to do.

“These guys have got to go out and play the game like they do. They’re going to make adjustments. That’s what we have coaches for, that’s the reason why we have iPads and communication in the dugout. The last thing I want to do there is start overmanaging and give away outs.”

Veteran right-hander Lance Lynn has the starting assignment for the White Sox on Friday. After missing the first two months of 2022 with a right knee injury sustained during spring training, he finished 8-7 with a 3.99 ERA over 21 starts, recording 124 strikeouts in 121 2/3 innings.

Lynn will make his 15th career appearance (14th start) against the Astros and 10th at Minute Maid Park. He is 0-5 with an 8.80 ERA over his last five starts against Houston.

— Field Level Media contributed to this article

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