The Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics battled it out in a do-or-die game on Thursday afternoon. Ultimately, it was the American League's West Champions that advanced.
Dane Dunning and Mike Fiers were given the tall task of starting this elimination game, and neither fared well in their appearances. On top of that, the White Sox experienced a few costly injuries early on that forced the hand of manager Ricky Renteria.
In the top of the first, the White Sox threatened but couldn't score. Tim Anderson led off with a single and was pushed to third by a Jose Abreu base knock with one out. Fiers wiggled out of trouble with a pop-out and a hard liner to right.
In the bottom of the first, Oakland chased Dunning after just two outs. Tommy La Stella led off with a rope single up the middle. Mark Canha singled to left-center to set up two on with two outs. Manager Ricky Renteria went to the bullpen for rookie flamethrower Garrett Crochet, who struck out Matt Olson to preserve the 0-0 tie.
The Sox opened up the scoring in the second. Luis Robert destroyed a fastball that went 487 feet to left field, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Later, Nick Madrigal singled up the middle and was pushed to third by an Anderson double with two outs. Yasmani Grandal drew a walk to load the bases, which forced A's' manager Bob Melvin to make a switch of his own. Yusmeiro Petit was called from the pen to face the likely American League MVP in Abreu. Oakland's new reliever got the groundball he needed to end the inning with the score 1-0.
In the bottom of the second, after striking out Khris Davis, Crochet was pulled due to an injury and replaced by Aaron Bummer. The Sox third pitcher in less than two innings got a pair of groundouts to end the frame. It was later reported that Crochet experienced forearm tightness and requires further evaluation.
More runs came for the Sox in their half of the third. Eloy Jimenez doubled to left-center but was then pulled for James McCann due to his foot bothering him. Robert singled up the middle to plate McCann to double the lead to 2-0. Nomar Mazara followed with a double to the wall to plate Robert and make it 3-0 Sox.
In the bottom of the third, Sean Murphy walked to begin the inning against Bummer. With one out, Marcus Semien singled up the middle to put two on. Chad Pinder came in to pinch hit for Jake Lamb, which prompted Renteria to go to the pen for Codi Heuer. Pinder hit one hard that was knocked down by Anderson, but no outs were recorded, setting up bases loaded with one out. Mark Canha popped out and Matt Olson struck out to end the inning.
Frankie Montas came into the game in the top of the fourth and threw a perfect frame.
In the bottom of the fourth, Oakland found the scoresheet. With a runner on and Heuer on the mound, Murphy clobbered a two-run homer to make it 3-2 Sox. Renteria then swapped Heuer for Carlos Rodon, who was the club's fifth pitcher of the afternoon. He issued a walk to La Stella and gave up a double to Semien. An intentional walk to Pinder loaded the bases for Canha and another switch was made, this time for Matt Foster out of the pen. Foster walked Canha on five pitches to tie the game at 3-3. The rookie walked Olson as well to give the A's a 4-3 advantage with the bases still loaded. Davis flew out to end the inning. The score was 4-3 Oakland after four.
With Montas still on the mound for Oakland in the fifth, Moncada singled and then stole second with two outs. Mazara then punched a two-strike slider through the infield for a single that scored the tying run.
Evan Marshall came in for the Sox in the bottom of the fifth. After he got the first two outs, Murphy walked and La Stella reached on a catcher's interference call. Semien drew another walk to load the bases. Pinder then singled to left to plate a pair and give the A's a 6-4 lead.
J.B. Wendelken was the new pitcher for the A's in the top of the sixth. He retired the White Sox nine, one, and two hitters to maintain the 6-4 advantage.
In the Sox seventh, Lou Trivino was the new A's pitcher. He gave up a leadoff baserunner in Abreu, who reached on an error. He then hit McCann to put two on. Moncada and Robert popped out, but on the latter, Abreu tagged and advanced to third. Trivino was then replaced by Jake Diekman to face Mazara. The new reliever tossed a full-count walk to load the bases with two outs. Adam Engel grounded out to second to end the inning. The score held 6-4 at stretch time.
Joakim Soria got the ball for the A's in the top of the eighth. Anderson dumped a one-out single and Grandal walked. He was then pinch-ran for by Jarrod Dyson. On a two-strike pitch, Abreu grounded into a six-four-three double play to end the threat, leaving the White Sox with three outs remaining.
Alex Colomé pitched the ninth for the Sox and despite walking a batter, he got all three outs to turn it back over to the bats for one final shot against Oakland's Aussie closer Liam Hendriks.
Due up for the Sox were McCann, Moncada, and Robert down two runs. McCann led off with a single straight to center. Hendriks struck out Moncada for the first out. He did the same to Robert to bring the Sox down to their final out. Mazara took strike three looking to end the game. 6-4 was the final score from Oakland.
The White Sox dropped the series to the A's 2-1 to fall out of postseason contention. They were the only American League team to play a third game in the Wild Card Series. There were a few injuries in this game for the Sox as well as an emptied bullpen to try to get this done, but they fell short. The club also had a plethora of scoring chances that they couldn't convert on. Before questions are raised, I'm urging Sox fans to take a moment to reflect on how hard this team fought throughout a wild 2020 season. The offense never quit in this postseason series and they threatened down to their last out. This is just the beginning for the South Side. The future is bright.
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