At least they didn’t use up too much of our time tonight. The North Side Sox pod (part of the extensive South Side Sox Podcast Network™) captured the spirit of this game quite succinctly earlier this evening.
The best thing about Jose Ruiz pitching in a close, west coast game, is it means I can finally go to sleep.— North Side Sox Podcast (@NorthSideSoxPod) September 9, 2021
There’s nothing worse than holding your eyes wide open until the wee hours of the morning local time just to see your team lose a heartbreaker. At the very least, the White Sox (80-59) kept it short and sweet tonight, losing a well-paced, two-hour-and-50-minute contest to the Oakland Athletics (75-54) in entirely predictable fashion.
As has generally been the case over the past two months and change, Dallas Keuchel (8-9) didn’t have anything resembling his best stuff, setting down the A’s 1-2-3 in the first inning but allowing at least one baserunner in each inning to follow, giving up single runs in the second, fourth, and fifth innings on a solo homer from Matt Chapman and RBI base hits from Yan Gomes and Matt Olson.
Had Keuchel’s night ended there, it might have been a reasonable stat line. To that point, the offense had yet to click against Frankie Montas, and a five-inning, three-run effort from Keuchel to keep the White Sox in the ballgame would have been a more than acceptable outcome for a pitcher who has run a 7.08 ERA over his past 13 starts dating back to June 20.
Naturally, that’s not quite how it went. When it comes to inexplicable management of the pitching staff, Tony La Russa has two passions: Leaving Dallas Keuchel in the game too long, and letting José Ruíz put games fully out of reach. Tonight, he managed to combine the two, as Keuchel allowed a single to Gomes and a two-out triple to known lefty-killer Chad Pinder to make the game 4-1 before Elvis Andrus’s single against Ruíz put the final nail in the coffin for the team tonight. Ruíz settled down to pitch a scoreless seventh inning before Mike Wright Jr. put a bow on a restful night for the Sox bullpen with the same in the eighth.
On the offensive end, the White Sox were not without opportunities, but largely failed to capitalize on them. They had a chance to take an early lead after Yasmani Grandal continued his recovery rampage with a 380-foot double off the top of the left-center field wall; Gavin Sheets was able to move him to third with a grounder to the right side — much to the delight of Gordon Beckham, who, admittedly, is improving in terms of listenability, if not in the luck he seems to bring to the team. But a subsequent Leury García walk was negated by a rocket-shot double play off the bat of Brian Goodwin.
As Oakland dotted Keuchel with runs, the Sox put runners on base in each inning between the second and sixth, but stranded nearly every one of them, in no small part thanks to double plays from the aforementioned Goodwin and Sheets, who ended the fourth inning with a twin-killing of his own. The lone offensive spurt came in the fifth inning, when a leadoff double from noted sparkplug García was followed by a Goodwin single and a César Hernández grounder that led to this regrettable decision from typically-stellar Oakland first baseman Matt Olson:
Montas wriggled his way out of that second-and-third jam, however, and that was all she wrote for the Sox bats on the night, as the former South Side farmhand finished with a sterling line of seven innings pitched, six hits, two walks, seven punchouts, and that solitary earned run.
The game wasn’t totally without positives, as Romy González collected his first hit in the major leagues, singling to right field against Andrew Chafin in a ninth-inning pinch-hit appearance in lieu of Gavin Sheets. That’s about all there is to say about this one, however.
With Cleveland once again being shut out (and nearly perfecto’d), 3-0 by Minnesota, Chicago’s sizable division lead remained untouched, and the magic number for clinching the division dropped to 14. However, with Houston’s loss to Seattle, the White Sox also missed a valuable opportunity to tie the Astros in the standings for the American League’s No. 2 seed — and the right to host Games 1, 2, and 5 of the division series. Such is the reality when a competitive team that can afford it nonetheless commits to punting a sizable number of games down the stretch of a long season.
They’ll be back at it against tomorrow, of course, with a 2:37 PM CST first pitch as Reynaldo López looks to keep his comeback tour flourishing against Indiana State product Sean Manaea.