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Bad call? Bad division? White Sox will take breaks where they can get them

Vinnie Duber Avatar
June 21, 2023

Bruce Bochy didn’t hold back.

“For that call to be made, I’m dumbfounded,” the three-time World Series winner told Bally Sports Southwest on Tuesday night. “It’s absolutely one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen, and it was done by replay. I just don’t get it, I don’t care how many times they’ll try to explain it.

“You can’t do that in that situation. It’s a shame. It’s embarrassing, really.”

The view from the other side?

“I’m glad it went our way,” Dylan Cease said.

The White Sox aren’t going to be picky about how they get wins at this point, as long as they get them. Tuesday night’s was a wild one, a much-needed victory for a White Sox team that needs a whole lot more of them.

In case you missed the action, Elvis Andrus had just tied the game up — and sent Guaranteed Rate Field to a volume rarely heard this season — with a two-out, two-run single and advanced to second base on the throw home from right field. When Zach Remillard deposited a base hit into left field, Andrus took off for home. The throw beat him. The tag got him. He was called out.

But the White Sox challenged multiple aspects of the play, not only the tag at home but whether or not Rangers catcher Jonah Heim was in violation of the plate-blocking rule. Considering anyone who watched the play live or its numerous replays could tell you that there was plenty of plate for Andrus to access and that the tag got him before he touched home, it seemed a foregone conclusion that replay would uphold the call on the field.

Except it didn’t.

And then everyone got loud again.

Heim was ruled to have violated the rule. Andrus was safe. The White Sox had an improbable lead on one of baseball’s best teams. Bochy was sent packing, ejected for arguing with the umpires.

Three outs from Kendall Graveman later, the game was over, the White Sox victorious, their record boosted to … 11 games below .500.

You might have thought the call was blown. But you can see why the White Sox aren’t being picky.

“Towards the end (of the video review), I was able to talk to the third-base umpire, and he kind of told me one of the reasons was (Heim) was kind of like in violation, he was pretty much on top of the plate the whole time. (I was) kind of hoping that helps us in a way,” Andrus said. “Very close play, and very glad it went our way.”

During his postgame media session, Pedro Grifol said he still hadn’t watched a replay of the play and didn’t want to apply his knowledge of the rule to exactly what happened in Tuesday’s game.

“You’ve got to set up in front of the plate and give the runner a chance to slide,” Grifol said. “If you are on the plate, I think they are going to call you for a violation, and definitely if you are set up right in the baseline. That’s New York. They have guys over there who make those calls. My job is to know the rule and make sure our guys are on top of it.”

Whether the league got it right or not, the White Sox will take an outcome that’s been in short supply for them this season: a win. The good feelings, the confidence boost, the climb in the standings, the result from a night of doing the little things right. It’s all been hard to come by for these South Siders.

More nights like Tuesday, and things can start to be described as turning around for a team that dug itself a massive hole with a miserable April. But it will take many more nights like this.

“We haven’t played to our maximum potential, but we’re still competing and that’s what it’s all about,” Andrus said. “Something we talk about every single day: There’s a lot of season left, a lot games ahead of us. Knowing and believing that the best is yet to come? Very huge team win for us.”

It’s foolhardy to put much stock into one win, especially when so many more are needed to vault the White Sox back into the conversation of a team that can go places — or heck, even just match the massive disappointment of last year’s 81-81 finish.

Of course, this is not a normal situation. The White Sox play in an awful division, one so bad that a record 11 games worse than .500 is good for four and a half games back of first place. All five teams in the AL Central are below water, meaning the White Sox aren’t out of it yet.

Call it fool’s gold, sure. The White Sox could limp their way to a division title, but it wouldn’t mean they’re destined or even able to achieve postseason glory. Rick Hahn painted a picture Monday of an outcome where he’s making seller-type moves at the trade deadline because an AL Central title wouldn’t come with a realistic chance to compete in the playoffs.

So crow all you want about how a narrow gap in the standings is merely the luck of the draw and that in any other division the White Sox would be dead and buried. It’s true. But the White Sox, after how badly things went in the season’s first month, will take it.

“Very happy that it’s that way,” Andrus said. “That’s something we talk and try to transmit to the guys: In baseball, you have to be able to have a short memory. You cannot stick to the past, stick to the last week, the last day. For us it’s looking ahead. It’s only five and a half, over 70 games ahead.

“As long as we believe, we know we have the talent to do it. It’s about sticking as a team and pulling the right way.”

You might think the White Sox didn’t deserve a win Tuesday. You might think the White Sox don’t deserve to still be in the hunt for a playoff spot.

But for a team looking to keep its season alive, the breaks are welcome.

Just ask Tuesday’s hero, who had a whale of a game against the club he spent a decade and a half with, not just driving in two runs in the eighth and scoring the game-winner but hitting a tie-breaking homer earlier in the evening.

Andrus is a veteran of a slow start in 2015 where his Rangers had to dig themselves out of an early hole. It’s a season he’s apparently been reminding his teammates about of late.

“He’s critical,” Grifol said of Andrus. “He’s the one voice you hear all the time. He’s the guy you hear in the dugout. When we get behind, he’s saying, ‘We can get this done.’ When we lose two or three games and we are still five and a half out, he’s the one telling everyone, ‘We can do something magical.’

“He’s been around. He’s seen a lot. … He knows where we’re at and where we have to go. And he’s not at all shy about reminding everybody, ‘This is what we have to do.’”

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