Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ill-advised bunt attempts get in the way of potential White Sox rally

Leury Garcia
Let me preface my comments on Tuesday's 5-4 White Sox loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks with this: There is a time and place to bunt and play for one run. (For instance, the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game.)

That said, I often see major league managers fall into the trap of giving away outs when they should not be playing for only one run. Sox manager Rick Renteria did just that in the eighth inning Tuesday, and it contributed to the Sox (20-24) dropping a winnable game.

The Diamondbacks brought Jorge De La Rosa in to protect a 5-3 lead in that eighth inning, and he fooled nobody. Jose Abreu homered to pull the Sox within a run. Todd Frazier walked and Melky Cabrera singled, and the Sox were set up with runners on first and second with nobody out.

That brought up Leury Garcia, who is not my favorite player, but the fact of the matter is he is hitting a respectable .288 this season. Thanks to a double switch, the pitcher's spot was due up after Garcia, followed by .182-hitting catcher Kevan Smith.

De La Rosa was laboring, so I liked Garcia's chances of doing something in that situation. Why give a struggling pitcher an out? And the Sox were moving toward a compromised bottom part of the batting order, so Garcia seemed as good a bet as any to come up with the hit the Sox needed. Unfortunately, Renteria called for Garcia to sacrifice bunt. After two failed attempts, he hit a weak grounder to third base. Now, that grounder did advance the runners to second and third, so it had the same effect as the bunt, but Garcia essentially gave away his at-bat. De La Rosa got an out he didn't earn, and some traction in that inning.

That brought up the pitcher's spot, and Avisail Garcia -- who did not start the game because of flu-like symptons -- was sent to the plate to pinch hit. Alas, first base was open. There was no way the Diamondbacks were going to face the .342-hitting Garcia in that situation. The intentional walk was issued, and Renteria's best option off the bench went to waste.

That brought up the right-handed hitting Smith, and gave Arizona manager Torey Lovullo a good reason to remove the left-handed De La Rosa. Lovullo did just that. He brought in right-hander J.J. Hoover. The Sox used Omar Narvaez to pinch hit for Smith, but Hoover struck him out. Then, he struck out Yolmer Sanchez to escape the bases-loaded situation and preserve Arizona's 5-4 lead.

The Sox did not mount a threat in the ninth against Arizona closer Fernando Rodney, so their best chance to score was against De La Rosa, who had nothing going for him out there. Unfortunately, Renteria did not give Leury Garcia a chance to take advantage of that. Instead, he managed the Sox into a situation where Lovullo had good reason to remove a struggling pitcher and replace him with a pitcher who had his stuff together.

Losing proposition for the Sox.

And, there was no reason for Renteria to want the game to be tied. He needed to get the lead in that spot, because the Sox are carrying 13 relievers and playing with a short bench. Starting pitcher Dylan Covey lasted only 2.1 innings in this game, and three Sox relievers already had been used by the eighth inning. Narvaez was the last position player available when he was used in the eighth.

This was not a situation where the Sox wanted to go to extra innings. They needed to win it in regulation, and by playing for the tie, they increased their odds of losing it in regulation. Lose it they did.

Frustrating loss.


  1. I thought for sure you were going to write about the even stupider bunt attempt with Smith earlier in the game. With 2 strikes even!

    I really don't disagree with anything you said, but I could semi-justify Leury's bunt on the grounds that he at least has the speed to possibly beat out a bunt for a single. But still it's ultimately a stupid thing to do with a pitcher who is clearly getting hammered.

    Switching gears, is every MLB rebuild filled with idiot beat writers and columnists that wonder if the rebuild will get cancelled early? Even writers I respect are falling into this. I don't care if it's column fodder, the 10% of moron fans that don't like the idea of a rebuild should be ignored, not catered to. Are writers really stupid enough to think anyone with a brain would entertain the idea of a rebuild being announced, begun, and then abruptly cancelled before ANY draft takes place? I expect this kind of lunacy in Bears coverage, but it disgusts me that morons are considered the default audience. /rant

  2. I wrote earlier this month that this notion of the Sox hanging in contention, and possibly adding to this year's team, was absurd. Sure, they had a winning April, but strange things happen in April, and those things have a way of evening out in May. We've seen that with this Sox team. The 13-10 April was very watchable. The 7-15 May has been more along the lines of what we expected. The narrative that the Sox are "too good" to be considered a rebuilding team is nonsense. Sox fans don't need to cheer for losses to improve draft position; the losses are going to take care of themselves.