(670 The Score) The White Sox will head into winter wondering what could have been had they not contributed so significantly to their own demise. The Oakland Athletics beat the White Sox, 6-4, on Thursday afternoon to advance out of the best-of-three wild-card round, and ultimately it felt like they deserved to do so.
White Sox manager Rick Renteria handled this one with palpable and contagious nervousness, testing whether one can identify flop-sweat through a black mask.
Even as the White Sox were charging to a 3-0 lead, it was already starting to come apart. Any trust in starter Dane Dunning to eat up outs was superseded by the decision to insert Garrett Crochet with two on and two outs in the bottom of the first, calculating that the leverage was high enough. What was unforeseen was Crochet's early exit the next inning with what was described as forearm tightness and could augur worse. That set in motion a chain of moves that exposed what can happen when a bad call is accompanied by a lack of courage in one's own convictions.
The White Sox were up 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the third, and Renteria thought that was the ideal time to deploy Carlos Rodon, who returned a week ago from a month-long absence due to ongoing shoulder problems and blew a lead and the game his first time back on the mound. Rodon promptly walked Tommy La Stella, allowed a double to Marcus Semien and per rule was tasked with facing one more hitter, in this case Chad Pinder -- a hitter with a wRC+ of 91 in 2020. But Renteria was already doubting his insertion of Rodon and chose to walk Pinder intentionally, then brought in rookie righty Matt Foster with the bases loaded.
The obviously jumpy Foster wasn't the man for the moment, promptly walking Mark Canha and Matt Olson to plate two runs, surrendering the lead. At that point, the line of White Sox pitchers was already moving in accelerated fashion, not playing to the strength of Renteria.
And that's what this was about more than anything, some unfortunate circumstances conspiring to put a limited tactician at even more of a disadvantage than usual. Losing Crochet forced Renteria to become an improvisor, and making properly timed pitching decisions on the fly is an area in which he hasn't distinguished himself, to be kind.
The bats didn't help him either, but even had they done so, we would be still discussing the multiple red flags thrown up Thursday regarding Renteria's in-game chops.
This is a beginning for the White Sox more than it is an end, the first of what should be more postseason appearances. We expect more games that are similarly attenuated, where all the little things matter. This wasn't a strong audition for Rick Renteria as a savvy and confident playoff manager, and there will now be ample time for the White Sox to determine if this is good enough for whatever is to come.
Dan Bernstein is the host of the Dan Bernstein Show on middays from 9 a.m. until noon on 670 The Score. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.