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As the White Sox saw a 3-0 lead turn into a 4-3 deficit after four, and went from tying the game in the top of the fifth to trailing 6-4 in the bottom of the inning, it looked like the brunt of the blame would fall on the pitching staff, and Rick Renteria’s handling thereof.
Renteria’s plan to use Dane Dunning and Garrett Crochet through the first third of the game died when Crochet departed with the dreaded forearm tightness one out into the second. He struck out both batters he faced, but his velocity had dipped to 96 by his last fastball.
By the time Evan Marshall, Yasmani Grandal and first-base umpire Marvin Hudson conspired to let four straight A’s reach base after two outs in the fifth, Rick Renteria had used seven pitchers who had combined to issue eight walks. He needed just one pitcher to deliver an easy inning to get his bullpen management back on track, and that pitcher didn’t show up until Jimmy Cordero of all people threw a 1-2-3 inning on nine pitches in the seventh.
Nevertheless, the White Sox offense had a chance to turn this game into a proper slugfest, but the big hits dried up. They went 3-for-14 with 12 stranded. José Abreu twice grounded out with a chance to put a dent on the scoreboard, once with the bases loaded in the second, and an even costlier double play with two on and one out in the eighth, when Joakim Soria looked like he wanted to walk him. Eloy Jiménez couldn’t get a run home from third with one out in the first, and Adam Engel duplicated Abreu’s Game-2-ending groundout off Jake Diekman in the seventh, a 1-0 fastball scalded at 110.1 mph, but right to the second baseman.
Neither pitching staff covered itself in glory, but the A’s made the White Sox hit themselves on and in. The Sox did the former (12 hits), but not so much the latter. There were enough opportunities to get two more runs out of this game to the very end, when James McCann led off with a single against Liam Hendriks, who threw 49 pitches the day before. But Hendriks struck out the side to dash the White Sox’s hopes once more for the road, this time ending the season.
As for Renteria, his decision-making faced two different tipping points. He could have stuck with Dunning to see if he could strand two baserunners with two outs in the first, thus giving the Sox to have less ground to cover if and when Crochet’s elbow gave out. But when Crochet struck out the two batters he faced, it seemed to validate the quick hook.
He just couldn’t find the one pitcher to buy an inning. Aaron Bummer labored over the course of his three outs, allowing a hit and a walk and throwing just half his 22 pitches for strikes. Codi Heuer, coming off a scoreless September, gave up a two-run homer to Sean Murphy that got the A’s back in the game with two outs in the fourth, setting up the second tipping point.
In came Carlos Rodón, out of the bullpen, but with the bases clear. If he gets one out, he might be able to handle the fifth, and maybe the sixth. Instead, he walked lefty Tommy La Stella, then gave up a ringing double to Marcus Semien that somehow didn’t score La Stella. With first base open and needing Rodón to face a third batter, Renteria called for the intentional walk, then called for Matt Foster.
The thinking was simple — he trusted Foster more than Rodón. But Foster betrayed that trust by walking home two runs and giving Oakland the lead. He eventually ended the miserable inning with a flyout, but after 12 pitches and just three strikes, the damage was done.
Perhaps Renteria should have let the veteran Rodón try to escape his own mess, but Rodón also hadn’t shown any reliability all season, whereas today was the first time Foster actually looked like a rookie. It was a hard game for Renteria to manage, and by defraying the blame to all sorts of pitchers, he put himself at the center of it.
However, when Marshall dusted himself off and threw a scoreless sixth, and Cordero and Alex Colomé worked without issues in the seventh and eighth, the offense’s failures stole some of the spotlight. In the end, the end of the White Sox’s season was a total team effort.
*Luis Robert gave us one more jaw-dropping moment, blasting a 487-foot homer off Mike Fiers.
*Marshall should’ve been able to end the sixth on a checked swing by Murphy, but Hudson didn’t see his bat crossing the plate. Grandal then committed a catcher interference, and his inning went downhill from there.
*The A’s stranded 12 runners themselves.
*Before Nomar Mazara struck out to end the game, he was 2-for-3 with a double, two RBIs and a walk. He just couldn’t quite redeem his season.
*Jiménez also doubled, but he aggravated his foot as he ran the bases to second. James McCann replaced him.
*Listen to the three-headed postgame show below, starting at 7 p.m. CT:soxmachine is on Mixlr