HOUSTON — The Chicago White Sox stood on the third-base line after both teams were introduced and watched as the Houston Astros held their 2022 championship ceremony before Thursday’s game at Minute Maid Park.
Every major league team is striving for the type of celebration that was on display.
The party was followed by strong pitching and late offense in a 3-2 Sox victory in manager Pedro Grifol’s debut in front of a sellout crowd of 43,032.
The Astros scored on a wild pitch in the seventh, and the Sox tied the game in the eighth with a two-out homer from Yasmani Grandal. Andrew Vaughn gave the Sox the lead with a two-run double in the ninth.
Sox starter Dylan Cease and Astros starter Framber Valdez showed why they finished in the top five in the American League Cy Young Award voting last season.
Cease, the Cy Young runner-up, struck out seven of the first 10 batters he faced and finished with 10 strikeouts, matching Jack McDowell (1991) for the most by a Sox pitcher on opening day. Cease allowed one run on two hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Valdez, who placed fifth in the voting, worked out of trouble on a couple of occasions for five shutout innings. He allowed six hits and struck out four.
Cease, making the first opening day start of his career, said on Wednesday that he was looking forward to the adrenaline associated with assignment.
“I’m in a better spot to know how to utilize it,” he said.
That was the case as he used the fastball, curve and slider for strikeouts. He gave up a single to leadoff batter Jeremy Peña in the first and retired the next 19 batters, with the streak ending when he hit Yordan Álvarez with a pitch with one out in the seventh.
The Sox failed to score with the bases loaded in the fifth and seventh.
The Astros took advantage of their opportunity in the seventh. Cease exited after hitting Álvarez and giving up a single to José Abreu. Aaron Bummer walked Kyle Tucker to load the bases with one out.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Alvarez scored on a wild pitch. Grandal tied the game with the blast to right-center the next inning.
Tim Anderson, who had two hits, walked to start the rally with one out in the ninth. Luis Robert Jr. singled and Vaughn followed with the two-run double off reliever Ryan Pressly.
Álvarez homered in the ninth, but Reynaldo López rebounded to collect the save as the Sox opened the season in impressive fashion.