Lance Lynn gets hit hard as the Chicago White Sox drop Game 1 of the ALDS with a 6-1 loss to the Houston Astros

By LaMond Pope

HOUSTON — The Chicago White Sox acquired Lance Lynn in an offseason trade with the Texas Rangers for a situation like Thursday: a big game in a hostile environment against a team loaded with talent.

But the Cy Young Award candidate couldn’t get out of the fourth inning as the Sox suffered a 6-1 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the American League Division Series in front of 40,497 at Minute Maid Park.

Lynn allowed five runs on six hits with four strikeouts and two walks in 3 2/3 innings as the Sox fell into a hole in the best-of-five series.

“I wasn’t good,” Lynn said. “I wasn’t making pitches when I needed to. I gave up some two-out runs on pitches that could have been better. I wasn’t making quality pitches when I needed to and that’s pretty much it.”

Game 2 is Friday in Houston (1:07 p.m., MLBN).

“You’ve got to win three, but every one you get is valuable,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “And the first opportunity, we definitely wanted it, and they got it. We’ll be ready to compete (Friday).”

While Lynn struggled, Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. was locked in. He allowed four hits, struck out four and hit one batter in 6 2/3 innings.

The Sox’s first hit came in the fourth — a one-out single by Yoán Moncada — but by that time they were down three runs.

“I thought his stuff was good,” La Russa said of Lynn. “I know he wasn’t happy with the sequences of pitches. He felt he had more to work with. He didn’t show enough of the assortment that he had.”

Leadoff walks led to the Astros’ first two runs. Lynn walked Yordan Alvarez to begin the second. Alvarez advanced to second on a Carlos Correa single and moved to third when Kyle Tucker flied out to center.

Jake Meyers followed with a two-out single to right and Alvarez scored to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.

Lynn waked José Altuve to start the third. Altuve moved to second on a bunt and third on a wild pitch. Alex Bregman hit a grounder to third, and Altuve beat Moncada’s throw to the plate, making it 2-0.

“That was a good play by Moncada to field that ball in the hole and even make it close enough,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “That was a tremendous slide. He’s an excellent slider and that was big for us because at the time it was 1-0. So any time you can add a run when you’re playing such a good opponent, it’s big.”

Alvarez followed with an RBI double.

The Astros put the game out of reach in the fourth with a two-out, two-run single by Michael Brantley. That was the last batter of the day for Lynn.

“They’re just deep,” Lynn said of the Astros. “They just battle. They don’t strike out They pick and choose times when they want to be aggressive. That’s why they’ve had the success that they’ve had. From top to bottom, they don’t make it easy on you.”

Alvarez hit a solo homer off reliever Reynaldo López in the fifth.

The Sox were looking to get a boost offensively after José Abreu was cleared to play despite the 2020 AL MVP battling flu-like symptoms in recent days. The Sox said Wednesday that multiple tests confirmed the illness is not COVID-19-related.

Abreu batted third and served as the designated hitter. He went 2 for 4 with an RBI, singling in the seventh and eighth.

“If I told you I’m feeling 100 percent, I would be lying to you,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “But I have to recognize the training staff that we have, they’ve done a good job with me. I played today because of the commitment I have to this team.

“I have to give my best for the team every day. It doesn’t matter how I feel. It was important for me and the team for me to play.”

Luis Robert — who had two hits — and Eloy Jiménez also singled in the seventh, but the Sox came up empty.

Tim Anderson singled in the eighth against reliever Kendall Graveman and scored on Abreu’s two-out single.

McCullers had two strong starts against the Sox in the regular season, allowing three runs on four hits with 14 strikeouts in 13 innings. He was just as sharp Thursday, which meant trouble and a series deficit for the Sox.

“We kept battling and fighting, but we also have to recognize the work that the Astros did,” Abreu said. “Their pitcher was good and they did a good job. Our focus is on (Friday) right now.”

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