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After 2020’s short postseason stay, Tim Anderson said of the White Sox:
“We need that dog in us. We need some, ‘Let’s go out here and whoop these m—–f—–s.’”
Independent of whether the White Sox ever found that attitude themselves – you’ve got an opinion, I’m sure – the Guardians definitely have it.
Just like the Astros showed how big the chasm was between them and the White Sox by easily dispatching of the South Siders in last year’s playoffs, the Guardians are showing just how much difference there is between a team willing itself to October and one that can’t get the job done.
The White Sox spent the night after Tuesday’s seemingly season-smashing loss playing some pretty rough defense, giving up a bunch of runs and doing next to nothing offensively. Meanwhile, the Guardians continued running all over them, taking advantage of every extra out and every extra base and keeping their foot firmly on the gas pedal.
There’s no indication the Guardians will relent in the AL Central, no sign they’ll crumble in the way the White Sox need them to in order to bring a mathematical miracle to life.
The Guardians are going to the playoffs. The White Sox will be watching from home. And they won’t have to wonder why, either. The Guardians have that “dog” in them. They came out and “whooped” the White Sox in the first two games of what was supposed to be a crucial series.
“Right now, it’s a little punch in the gut,” Lance Lynn said of the way the first two games of the series went for the White Sox, including Wednesday’s 8-2 defeat.
As crucial as this set looked Tuesday afternoon, things got a lot less crucial for the White Sox after back-to-back losses to the Guardians, even if their acting manager didn’t want to think about the near impossibility of the scenarios and the 3.4-percent chance Fangraphs gave his team to play past the end of the regular season.
“I’m not giving up,” Miguel Cairo said after Wednesday’s game. “(White Sox players) are not giving up. We are going to come back and play again.
“The season is not over. We still have to come and play hard. The way it’s supposed to be played.”
If math is giving the White Sox only the slightest chance to save their season now, it would be far less kind if it could have seen the way the team played Wednesday.
Yoán Moncada led a sloppy defensive display in the early innings, jacking up Lynn’s pitch count and getting the Guardians going. The White Sox’ typically slick-fielding third baseman took his time getting a throw to first, resulting in an infield single; made an errant throw on a double-play attempt, allowing a run to score; and couldn’t corral a hot shot at him that went for an RBI infield single.
That was all in the top of the first inning.
Two innings later, Moncada and Andrew Vaughn came together tracking a pop up in short left field, Moncada peeling off at the last moment and Vaughn dropping the ball. Elvis Andrus made a bad throw to first base. Lynn made a pair of wild pitches. It was that kind of night.
Lynn’s defense let him down, no doubt about it, though he was hardly free of blame in this one, giving up nine hits – a few aided by defensive blunders – including a home run. Yes, this was a team effort, joined by the bullpen that blew the game Tuesday when José Ruiz gave up a two-run rocket shot in the seventh.
And as has been the case much of the year – certainly in the five months prior to the Cairo-inspired late-season surge – the offense was nowhere to be found. Triston McKenzie carved up the White Sox, who mustered only a couple runs on, of all things on this night, a Moncada homer and a late RBI knock from Gavin Sheets. Otherwise, it was the McKenzie Show, the lanky righty striking out 13 and walking none.
All told, it was nothing close to the type of effort that was needed to prove Cairo right, to show that there are still stakes worth fighting for. And now the White Sox are a half dozen games back in the division standings, just a stunning result through the lens of the preseason expectations, which had the White Sox running away with a second straight Central crown.
“Nothing surprises me, especially when you play like shit all year,” Lynn said. “We’ve been six games out all year, it seems like. We’ve still got some time left, but we put ourselves in a hole, that’s for sure.”
The acting manager’s insistence that his team “played their butts off” Tuesday wasn’t misplaced, as the White Sox did look like a team, at times, fighting for their lives. Wednesday? Not so much. Which perhaps goes to show they can do math as well as the rest of us.
Here’s what that math says now: If the Guardians fall apart and go 6-7 the rest of the way, the White Sox must be perfect. They must go 13-0. So you’d rather take a peek at the wild-card standings? As of this writing, they’re six games back there, too.
“It’s never going to be easy,” Lynn said. “We put ourselves in a hole (by) not playing as well as we could. So we’re still not eliminated. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We need some help.”
The White Sox are not going to get any help from the Guardians, who aren’t going to magically lose their mojo. They’re the ones with the “dog” the White Sox always wanted.
All the White Sox have is an entire winter to figure out how to get one of their own.
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