The End of the Beginning

Today might have been the finish, but the future, at least, is bright.
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The sun has set on the 2020 White Sox, as quickly as we opened our eyes to the premise of pandemic baseball, we close them tonight in darkness, to rest for the 2021 season.

But daylight will fall once more, and Luis Robert will crush ear-shattering dingers once more. Tim Anderson will chase yet another batting title, and we'll see Lucas Giolito's AL Cy Young campaign kick off strong and early. 

So rest well, White Sox fans.

Wait, what? This sounds like the end. It's only the beginning!

This AL Wild Card series vs. the Oakland Athletics started with an inspiring win fortified by Giolito's near-perfect performance. But a team that carries itself to the World Series should have an aura of completion, of sorts. Game 2 showed flaws early, as defensive errors and uncharacteristic pitching cost the game. 

Game 3 attempted to be resourceful and even plucky at face value with Ricky Renteria's micromanagement of the bullpen. However, this backfired, and ended up exposing underlying problems in pitching staff depth that should certainly be addressed in the offseason.

This won't be a typical recap, as this is the last of this season. I have been assured that you've probably seen the game, and so have I, and if you don't want to revisit it (honestly, I really don't either), I respect that decision. 

That being said, let's attempt to break it down.

The Luis Robert Show: now in high definition

Luis Robert was one of the bright spots of this Wild Card series. Robert's home run in the second inning off Mike Fiers, a 480-foot bomb, was the second-longest home run ever hit in the Statcast era.  

Robert accounted for a good deal of White Sox offense. In the third inning, he singled to center field, scoring James McCann and putting the White Sox up, 2-0. 

Fiers was not long for this game, as Nomar Mazara then doubled, scoring Robert, making it 3-0.

Tim Anderson is still awesome

Going 3-for-5 today, Tim Anderson once again put forth a multi-hit effort, and though the batting title might have slipped from his hands in the regular season, he finished the postseason with a .643 average and a 1.429 OPS.

Anderson is also the first player in MLB history with nine hits in his first three career postseason games—and the most hits ever in a three-game playoff series. He has the potential to become an absolute superstar; Anderson at least made watching this game, especially in the later innings, somewhat bearable. 

That one time they tied it up and we thought it meant something

After a Yoán Moncada double, Mazara (also with a multi-hit effort today), singled off Frankie Montas, tying it right up and injecting the fanbase with some kind of false hope, in the fifth inning. Wait, didn't you say the Sox were winning, earlier? 

Yeah, about that.

Intro to Micromangement, Fall 2020

Perhaps the late-season collapse of the White Sox starting rotation is what led to what could have been the most aggressively-managed bullpen game I've seen in ... quite a while. In case the game did go into to—god forbid—extra innings, mentions of Giolito, or even Keuchel pitching on one day's rest, sent a chill down my spine. 

Dunning would be on a short leash, but after two hard-hit singles by Tommy La Stella and Mark Canha, Ricky decided he had seen enough, and brought out hard-throwing lefty, Garrett Crochet.

And leave the A's in stitches, Crochet did, and the last thing he did was nab Khris Davis with a gorgeous swinging strikeout. but the rookie, who throws 100+ mph consistently, left the game early to the horror of White Sox fans, later diagnosed with forearm soreness. 

We then saw Aaron Bummer, then Codi Heuer, and it wasn't even the fourth inning. Heuer ran into trouble in the fourth, offering a walk to Robbie Grossman and a home run to Sean Murphy. And then in a move of continued aggression, Heuer was replaced by Carlos Rodón with two outs, with Los failing to get the White Sox one lousy out. 

Rodón walked La Stella, and then *intentionally walked* Chad Pinder, and that's the last we'd see a White Sox reliever throw a strike in a while. Matt Foster's control was not there at all, and he walked in two runs to put the A's ahead.

The White Sox tried (several times) to rally, but never pulled ahead. The final nail in the 2020 coffin came when Evan Marshall issued walks to Murphy and Marcus Semien, and then Chad Pinder singled, putting the A's up for good, 6-4.

About those attempted rallies

Perhaps even more embarrassing than the aggressive management of the bullpen were the amount of times the White Sox stranded runners on base. A really cringeworthy stat is that the Sox were 3-for-21 with runners in scoring position in these past two games. To make matters worse, they were also .200/.255/.267 as a team with the bases loaded in 2020, and 0-for-3 with sacks packed today. 

The end of the beginning

The end of the season recap is never a fun one to write, especially because I always feel some kind of obligation to be upbeat or optimistic about the future, which I sort of am. This team was playing with house money from the get-go, as this wasn't even supposed to be the year. Even though this postseason run was exciting and exceeded expectations, these losses were still heartbreaking, winnable games kept right out of reach. 

The laundry list of task items for the Sox this postseason will certainly consist of fortifying the starting rotation with a free-agent signing, fixing the DH situation, and perhaps placing some scrutiny upon the managerial spot. All valid, all things that can make this team better.

With that, the postgame column is signing off, we'll see you in 2021.