Astros vs. White Sox score: Houston takes out Chicago, moves to fifth consecutive ALCS to face Red Sox

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The Houston Astros trampled the Chicago White Sox by a score of 10-1 on Tuesday in Game 4 of the ALDS and in doing so took the series by a count of three games to one. As a result, the Astros advanced to the 2021 ALCS to face the Red Sox. The White Sox, meantime, see a second straight postseason end early and in disappointing fashion. 

The White Sox led early thanks to a Gavin Sheets home run, but the Astros took the lead for good in the third thanks to a double from Carlos Correa. Houston padded the lead at the expense of the White Sox bullpen. 

Meantime, Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr., able to take the mound on full rest thanks to Monday's rain-out, kept the Chicago bats in check, allowing one run over four innings. He was able to pitch around five hits and three walks, and perhaps because of those prior tight spots manager Dusty Baker lifted him before he faced the Chicago order for a third time. On offense, Jose Altuve had three hits including a home run (the 19th of his playoff career) and scored four runs. Alex Bregman drove in two. 

Something to monitor for Houston will be the status of center fielder Jake Meyers moving forward. Meyers in the second inning appeared to injure his left shoulder trying to make a play on Gavin Sheets' solo home run: 

Meyers' lobbied to remain in the game, but he was unable to throw the ball with any authority. He's stabilized the position for Houston both offensively and defensively this season, and his loss for even part of of the ALCS would be a significant blow. 

Now for some takeaways from Game 4. 

The Astros are headed to a fifth straight ALCS

Houston has now made it at least to the ALCS every year since 2017. In 2017, they won the World Series. In 2018, they lost in five games to the Red Sox in the ALCS. In 2019, they lost the World Series in the full seven games to the Nationals, and in the abbreviated 2020 season they fell to the Rays in the ALCS in seven. 

This fifth straight trip puts the Astros in elite historical company. Just two other teams -- the A's and Braves -- have appeared in at least five consecutive LCSs. The A's did so from 1971-75. As for the Braves, you can slap an asterisk on their streak. They made eight straight NLCSs from 1991-1999, but that streak was broken up by the 1994 season, in which a labor stoppage snuffed out the playoffs. The Braves were in second place in their division at the time of the shutdown. Still, they made five straight LCSs from 1995-99 without interruption. 

The Astros will be playing for the fourth pennant in franchise history, and veteran manager Dusty Baker will be trying to make the World Series for the second time in his career. Doing so would surely help his eventual Hall of Fame case. 

Rodón had it… for a while

The White Sox made the decision to start Carlos Rodón in the must-win Game 4 even though, thanks to the rainout on Monday, Game 1 starter Lance Lynn was available on full rest. While Rodón has been a remarkable comeback story in 2021 and may be in line for some down-ballot AL Cy Young votes, he wasn't himself down the stretch. Thanks to shoulder fatigue, Rodón showed decreased fastball velocity and wasn't quite as dominant over his final few starts. 

Coming into Game 4, Rodón hadn't started since Sept. 29, and the hope was that the extra rest would help his shoulder and his stuff. The results early were highly promising, especially from a velocity standpoint: 

Rodón hit 99 on the gun multiple times, and he spotted that fastball high in the zone to great effect in the first two innings. In the third, however, his command and control slipped. Houston hitters worked him for 30 pitches, 21 of which were either balls or fouled off. With two outs, a bases-loaded double by Carlos Correa gave Houston a 2-1 lead and chased Rodón from the game. In the end, he worked 2 2/3 innings, allowed two runs on three hits, and struck out three against two walks. The early radar run readings and ability to locate, but in the end Rodón surrendered a 1-0 lead and couldn't give the White Sox much in the way of length. 

The bullpen was even less effective, so you can't rightly pin this on the decision to start Rodón. Indeed, said decision looked like a masterstroke until that third inning. 

Things got a little tense in the eighth

With two outs in the eighth, Sox slugger José Abreu got plunked by a full-count fastball from Kendall Graveman. It's highly, highly unlikely to have any kind of intent behind it, but Sox skipper Tony La Russa was nonetheless quite displeased, as you'll soon see: 

La Russa has long bristled at seeing his hitters get drilled up and in, and in Abreu's case he's worn it quite a bit this season. He was hit by a pitch 22 times during the regular season and once previously in this ALDS. Add in the frustrations of a White Sox team about to be eliminated, and it's not surprising that La Russa got hot over this. It didn't help his mood when both benches were warned: 

The benches never cleared, but you still might consider this to be the latest installment of the La Russa-Dusty Baker hostilities

The La Russa hire achieved little

Prior to this season, the White Sox parted ways with manager Rick Renteria despite the fact that he guided them to a 35-25 record in the abbreviated season and their first playoff berth since 2008. Replacing him was Tony La Russa, reportedly at the behest of owner Jerry Reinsdorf. The La Russa hire was made despite the fact that he was 76 years of age and hadn't managed since 2011. 

Given the curious nature of the hire, the 2021 season was always going to be a referendum on the decision. Well, the returns are in, and it didn't accomplish much. During the regular season, the Sox under La Russa had a worse win percentage (.574) than they did in 2020 under Renteria (.583), and that's despite the fact that the AL Central was a substantially easier division this year. And just like last year under Renteria, the Sox under La Russa in 2021 won only one playoff game and were bounced in the opening round. All of that becomes even more damning once you consider that the Sox this past offseason added Lance Lynn and Liam Hendriks to the fold and were highly active leading up to the July 30 trade deadline. 

Thus far, the decision to bring back La Russa has been a bust. 

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