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White Sox regain feeling after beating Cubs

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Rick Renteria pushes Miguel Gonzalez to his limit and gets a break

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Chicago White Sox v Chicago Cubs

In a way, I’m kinda glad Rick Renteria has an awful bunting habit, because it allows something about his performance to register when there are so few gauges left.

Take the seventh inning against the Cubs on Monday, for instance. There’s no real good reason why Miguel Gonzalez should have been left in to face Anthony Rizzo, as all the numbers — lefty-righty, fourth-time-through — suggested otherwise.

If you adjust for conditions, the decision didn’t work out. Rizzo hit a 395-foot drive to center field, but it was into the teeth of a wind that knocked it down into Adam Engel’s glove on the warning track.

This is the same mistake that Robin Ventura made time and time again, and in a normal White Sox season, I’d probably roll up my sleeves and serve up one of my classic truth-to-power excoriations that would send shockwaves through the Chicago media and the White Sox front office.

But as we know, this year is not what we’re used to. It’d been six turns in the rotation since the White Sox got a seven-inning start, and there were no trustworthy options in the bullpen, at least if Renteria didn’t want to use Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak for more than two innings between them for a third game out of four. Plus, going to the bullpen at that point would’ve increased the chances of Tyler Clippard later in the game.

Now, factor all that, a nine-game losing streak and Renteria managing his first game against the team that dumped him unceremoniously, and the hell with it. When Renteria went to the mound in the seventh inning, it was only to make sure Gonzalez wanted it as much as he did.

"He said he was going to bring the lefty in, and I told him, 'I'm good. I'm fine. Let me go,'" Gonzalez said. "That's when he said, 'OK, let's do this.' He gave me the opportunity, and I was able to get out of that jam."

And if you wanted to know how much Renteria wanted it, he basically held a long-distance conference after Gonzalez walked Kris Bryant load the bases for Rizzo, since he’d already used up his visit:

With little left to lose but more losing, Renteria went for the great story, one for himself as much as Gonzalez, and he got it. It’s an even better story if you try not to sanitize Kevan Smith’s perspective about the mound meeting. Here’s Dan Hayes trying to talk around it:

Even though he had a front-row seat for the conversation, catcher Kevan Smith had little understanding of what transpired. The rookie said Renteria and Gonzalez spoke entirely in Spanish after Jon Jay and Javier Baez singled to open the bottom of the seventh inning. Smith heard Renteria mention to Gonzalez that lefty David Holmberg was ready to face switch hitter Ian Happ. Beyond that, all Smith heard from Gonzalez was ‘bueno’ and ‘listo,’ and Renteria was headed back to the visiting dugout.

And here’s James Fegan taking advantage of The Athletic’s less stringent standards:

“I don’t know. It was all in Spanish,” catcher Kevan Smith said of Renteria’s meeting on the mound before the showdown with Rizzo. “Gonzo said ‘Bueno,’ ‘Listo,’ ‘Let’s go.' I was like, ‘Shit.’ That’s about all I got out of it.”

I’d run that quote 10 times out of 10.

With trades gutting the roster and the league’s worst record in sight, the crosstown games have renewed importance in the same way Lovie Smith stuck a thumb in the eye of the Packers in his first chance with the Bears. The series doesn’t mean much for the standings, but it’s the only chance those around the Sox might get to feel a game before the numbing sameness of tanking resumes its hold. From that point on, bitch-worthy bunts might be necessary just to make sure we still have our senses.