The White Sox take on Altuve and the Astros beginning on Thursday. | Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
A tantalizing coin flip of a best-of-five series between the Sox and Astros starts Thursday.
Lance Lynn has been there before. Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel and Yasmani Grandal, too. We’re talking veteran White Sox who know all about what it’s like to play for all the marbles.
Most of the key Sox have had merely a small taste of postseason baseball — last year’s best-of-three series loss to the Athletics.
But that’s why Tony La Russa — who turns 77 Monday — is large and in charge, right? Against the Astros in a tantalizing coin flip of a best-of-five divisional series that starts Thursday, La Russa’s vast well of playoff experience might be the best thing the Sox have going for them. Of course, Astros manager Dusty Baker, 72, has been around the block, too, as have 2017 champions-with-an-asterisk Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman, among others.
As the regular season winds to Sunday’s close, La Russa is liking the mix of his team.
“You’ve got some really special young guys and you’ve got some real high-quality veterans,” he said, “and the key is the young guys have the attitude that they don’t know it all and they’re willing to listen.”
Monstrous talent aside, it’s reason No. 1 La Russa believes Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez, to name two, are ready to meet the moment.
“You’d be surprised how often some young players have been patted on the back, told they’re special, not held accountable, [had] people making excuses for them. It creates an, ‘It’s not me, it’s him’ attitude. But not these guys. No way.”
Anybody else ready for this series to get cracking?
Here’s what’s happening:
Lions at Bears (noon, Fox-32)
After getting smacked around in Cleveland by the team with the fewest wins this century, can the Bears (ahem) step up in class and avoid getting smacked around by the team with the second-fewest wins this century?
Sun at Sky, Game 3 (noon, ESPN)
Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones, the WNBA’s MVP, walks into Wintrust Arena expecting nothing less than a pivotal “W” in a 1-1 semifinal series.
Cubs at Cardinals (2:15 p.m., Marquee)
It’s Game 162, Cubs fans. You might not have heard, but only one of these teams is headed to the playoffs.
Steelers at Packers (3:25 p.m., Ch. 2)
Believe it or not, the Steelers haven’t had to face Aaron Rodgers even once since he beat them in Super Bowl 45 way back on Feb. 6, 2011. That’s just not fair.
Brady will play in his old backyard.
Buccaneers at Patriots (7:20 p.m., Ch. 5)
Here it is: Tom Brady’s much-anticipated return to Gillette Stadium. Alas, injured wingman Rob Gronkowski won’t be with him.
Raiders at Chargers (7:15 p.m., ESPN)
With the Chiefs starting slowly and the rest of the AFC West playing lights-out, here’s your most entertaining division in the NFL, folks.
Cavaliers at Bulls (7 p.m., NBCSCH)
Man, we can’t wait to see Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan and all the other Bulls newcomers out there strutting their stuff. Is the preseason opener too soon to start talking playoff ramifications?
Sun at Sky, Game 4 (7 p.m., ESPN)
There’s a spot in the Finals on the horizon for one of these teams. Sure would be nice to see a Sun-set in a brilliant Sky.
USMNT vs. Jamaica (6:30 p.m., ESPN2, Univision)
This World Cup qualifying match in Austin, Texas, is a gotta-have for the U.S. men, who enter tied for second in points with Canada and Panama — behind Mexico — in an eight-team group. Only the top three are assured of making it to Qatar.
White Sox at Astros, Game 1 (TBD)
Not to tell La Russa how to do his job, but we’d draw up a game plan that involves hitting the daylights out of ‘Stros starter Lance McCullers Jr.
White Sox at Astros, Game 2 (TBD)
Here we are, back on the playoff grind. We’d like to say the nerves have stopped jangling, but we’re only human. Fortunately, Abreu isn’t.
Pelicans at Bulls (7 p.m., NBCSCH)
So nice to see you again, Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple. Have we remembered to thank you for your immeasurable contributions to Chicago basketball?
Bevo at the Cotton Bowl.
Oklahoma vs. Texas (11 a.m., Ch. 7)
Nothing beats the scene inside or outside Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, where everything you could think of — pancakes, shrimp grits, Coke, the playoff hopes of the loser — is being fried on the Texas State Fair grounds.
Wisconsin at Illinois (2:30 p.m., BTN)
The Badgers are such an abject disaster offensively, first-year Illini coach Bret Bielema actually has a chance — and a dang good one — to knock off his old school.
Notre Dame at Virginia Tech (6:30 p.m., ACC)
We get goosebumps remembering how crazy cool it is when the Hokies take the field to “Enter Sandman.” Speaking of which, somebody please wake up the Irish offense.
Wild at Blackhawks (7:30 p.m., NBCSCH)
Here’s your preseason finale, Hawks fans, and you know what comes next — trying to be kind of good again.
Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury 3 (approx. 10 p.m., ESPN/Fox PPV)
Fury has a draw and a TKO in this heavyweight trilogy that was supposed to come to a screaming boil in July, but he tested positive for COVID-19. Not that Wilder’s camp believes it.