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Diamondbacks 5, White Sox 4: Bunting gets in the way

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Admirable team effort hampered by multiple unsuccessful attempts to play for a run

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With Avisail Garcia battling flu-like symptoms and the White Sox already carrying eight relievers, a short bench got shorter for Rick Renteria.

With Dylan Covey exiting in the third inning with what the Sox called left oblique soreness, Renteria spent his entire said short bench by the eighth inning.

And yet for some reason, he managed this game like he wanted it to go to extras.

It almost did. Tyler Saladino just got under one against Fernando Rodney, flying out deep to left, one inning after Jose Abreu left the yard with a majestic shot in the same direction for his 100th career homer. Abreu had a chance to deliver an encore and get started on his next 100, but he grounded out to second to end the game.

The Sox might’ve been better off losing this one in regulation, because Renteria emptied the chamber in the eighth in a pretty wasteful fashion. After Abreu led off with a homer to narrow Arizona’s lead to 5-4, Todd Frazier walked. Melky Cabrera tried bunting (for a hit, I believe), but after fouling it off, he salvaged the at-bat with a single off the glove of a diving Nick Ahmed. Three batters, three desirable plate appearances against Jorge La Rosa.

And then he had Leury Garcia bunt. Renteria’s small-ball inclination already bit the Sox earlier in this game — I’ll get to it -- and here it opened up first base for the pitcher’s spot then occupied by David Holmberg, as an earlier double-switch resulted in Yolmer Sanchez making his pro ball debut in right field.

Renteria called for Avisail Garcia, but with first base open, Torey Lovullo answered with an intentional walk to load the bases. Lovullo then brought in righty J.J. Hoover to face Kevan Smith, after which Renteria countered with Omar Narvaez to use his last bench player. Hoover worked over Narvaez for a strikeout on a high-but-in-the-zone fastball, then struck out Sanchez to escape the jam.

Watching the rest of the inning play out, why wouldn’t he take his chances with Leury Garcia against a guy who hadn’t fooled any of the three hitters he faced, rather than entice a manager to deploy other high-leverage relievers against a compromised bottom of the order? Why play for one run on the road in the eighth inning when the threat of being out of position players entering a potential 10th inning is very real?

And even though the bunt sent Renteria down a substitution spiral, that still made more sense than his call in the fourth inning. Again, the White Sox potentially had a pitcher on the ropes when Leury Garcia singled and Willy Garcia walked. Up came Smith, who had flied out to the warning track in right against lefty Patrick Corbin. With the pitcher’s spot lurking behind Smith, it seemed to make sense to let Smith swing away, and, should he bounce into a double play, maybe you let Chris Beck hit and eat the inning, rather than limiting the first long man to two-thirds of a frame.

Instead, he had Smith try bunting once, then twice, then thrice. Smith failed all three times and struck out, which is what put this sequence over the top even before Matt Davidson followed by grounding into a double play. Consequently, the Sox had to use the third pitcher to start the fourth.

All things considered, that part of the bullpen did a great job, especially since the ball seemed to be carrying. Gregory Infante had a rough start to the fourth, giving up a single and an RBI double, but Tim Anderson turned a line drive into a double play with a quick dive to second base that was revealed by a challenge, and Infante ended up pitching a scoreless sixth. Here’s how Beck, Infante and Holmberg picked up Covey, who departed the game after throwing a first-pitch curveball to Paul Goldschmidt:

  • Covey: 2.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2 HR
  • Front end: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 0 HR

Tommy Kahnle struck out two over a scoreless eighth, but that kinda ruins the spirit of the comparison.

Covey gave up a single, triple and homer within the first four batters he faced to fall into a quick 3-0 hole. Then he gave up a solo shot to Chris Herrmann in the bottom of the second after Melky Cabrera hit a solo shot in the top. This could’ve been a completely understandable blowout. Instead, unlikely Sox pitching and likely Sox hitting (homers by Cabrera, Frazier and Abreu) created conditions for a total team win. Renteria is getting credit for the fight shown, but he has to be content with that and get out of the way.

Bullet points:

*The first batter to come to the plate with Sanchez in right field immediately tested him. Sanchez caught the ball with no issues and couldn’t have been more delighted.

*The Sox were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Two of those plate appearances were compromised by ill-advised bunt attempts.

Record: 20-24 | Box score | Highlights