For the second time in as many days, the White Sox found themselves in an extra-innings battle against the Texas Rangers. Once again a bullpen running thin let down the White Sox.
For an undisclosed reason, Liam Hendriks was unavailable. He last pitched on Friday but Tony La Russa made it clear that Hendriks would not be used, even in a save situation. However, he will be available for the series against Detroit.
Before the game, it was announced that Aaron Bummer was placed on the IL with a left lat strain. This left the bullpen in a tough spot. They needed Michael Kopech to go deep into the game to take some stress off the bullpen. Unfortunately, Kopech recorded just two outs before exiting with an injury.
Reynaldo Lopez threw an inning and a third of scoreless baseball before passing the baton to Johnny Cueto. Cueto was initially scheduled to start Monday’s game against Detroit. On Saturday he threw a 45-pitch bullpen session.
On Sunday he was in the pool and sauna getting ready for his start when Kopech’s injury occurred. Cueto then volunteered his services and didn’t even bother stretching before his surprise relief appearance.
It was a tough spot to be in for the 14-year veteran. Yet he was able to give the White Sox five innings. In 77 pitches he allowed three runs and struck out four, giving the White Sox’s taxed bullpen some much-needed support. The offense returned the favor by scoring two runs in the seventh inning to tie the game at three.
But when Tony La Russa needed another reliever he turned to Tanner Banks. Banks was just recalled from Triple-A Charlottle and immediately found himself thrust into a tie game in the eighth inning. Not the most comfortable situation to be in for a guy who has only made 15 major league appearances.
To Banks credit, he rose to the occasion. After issuing two leadoff walks, he worked his way out of the jam by striking out Kole Calhoun and Joah Heim. He then got Nathaniel Lowe to ground out to end the inning.
He kept the Rangers at bay once again in the ninth inning despite a Jake Burger error at third base.
Their efforts wound up being in vain. Jose Ruiz allowed a three-run homer in the 11th that looked like it would be the kill shot. But the White Sox battled back thanks to a Seby Zavala sacrifice fly, Danny Mendick RBI triple, and an AJ Pollock RBI single to send the game to the 12th inning.
The game was put in the hands of Matt Foster for the second consecutive day and he coughed up two runs to put the White Sox in a hole once again.
The White Sox went out with a whimper to end the game. In typical White Sox fashion, the final out was made on a baserunning blunder. Luis Robert decided to tag up from second base on a ball hit to left field. Rangers outfielder Charlier Culbertson secured the out and then gunned down Robert at third base.
With the White Sox trailing by two runs, Robert’s run meant nothing. There was no reason to risk ending the game by taking an extra-base in that situation.
“Felt like it wasn’t a smart move to try and advance when you’re down by two,” Culberson said. “Luckily I made a good throw, and Ezequiel kept the tag on him. So it worked out in our favor.”
This is the second base-running gaffe that has cost the White Sox in the past twelve games. The other came on May 31st when Danny Mendick was thrown out at second base after a Yasmani Grandal sacrifice fly before the tying run could score from third.
Many are pointing the finger at the coaching staff for the White Sox’s continued lack of execution.
“You know I like the aggressiveness, but that wasn’t a good play,” La Russa said after the game. “His run means nothing, right? I’ll make sure I explain we like his aggressiveness and there’s a place for it, but that’s one place where you just read the scoreboard. It should always dictate how much you want to push and when you should push. He’s a quick learner. He won’t do it again.”
Once again chants of “Fire Tony” could be heard at the stadium. While they weren’t quite as loud as Saturday’s frustration is mounting for a fan base that was promised a championship contender. At 27-31, the White Sox are far from that.
It has been a topic nationally as well. On ESPN’s Sunday night baseball Buster Olney discussed La Russa hiring two years ago, explaining that part of the reason they hired him is that Jerry Reinsdorf felt bad about firing him 40 years ago.
Buster Olney says part of the reason Tony La Russa is the White Sox manager is because owner Jerry Reinsdorf felt bad about firing him almost 40 years ago pic.twitter.com/twGGqtsLLH
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) June 13, 2022
While this may not be news to people on the Southside it shed a light on how bad the situation is to a national audience. It doesn’t sound like Tony is being fired any time soon but there are sharks circling the boat.
Former White Sox catcher AJ Pierzynski dropped a hint that he would be interested in taking the job if an opening arrived.
“If Jerry Reinsdorf calls me and says ‘Can you come in for this interview?’ it’s going to be really hard for me to say no.”
A.J. Pierzynski as the next White Sox manager?
— Chicago Tribune Sports (@ChicagoSports) June 9, 2022
After La Russa’s decision to intentionally walk Trea Turner with a 1-2 count, Ozzie Guillen’s family mocked La Russa on Twitter, writing “The future is here walk a player because he is a good hitter with two strikes. This is awesome Big T.”
Guillen has been vocal about wanting to get another opportunity to manage. He even interviewed for the Padres job this offseason.
You can only lean on the “we are not fully healthy” excuse for so long. The Twins have a mountain of injuries, yet they are still in first place. The White Sox have a good team, it’s about time they start playing like it.