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Despite offense's heavy lifting, White Sox fall

April 18, 2018

OAKLAND -- On Tuesday, with his offense firmly mired in a slump, White Sox manager Rick Renteria likened his mindset to that of a prize fighter -- just trying to win each inning, one "round" at a time. Little did he know then how apt that analogy would prove for

OAKLAND -- On Tuesday, with his offense firmly mired in a slump, White Sox manager Rick Renteria likened his mindset to that of a prize fighter -- just trying to win each inning, one "round" at a time. Little did he know then how apt that analogy would prove for Wednesday's grueling, back-and-forth marathon that lasted five hours and 48 minutes.
The long-awaited breakout for the Chicago lineup finally came, but the White Sox and A's traded hits for nine innings -- whenever each team took a lead, the other club had an answer. And because nine innings of free baseball in Oakland on Tuesday apparently wasn't enough, it took 14 innings before James Shields yielded a walk-off single to Matt Olson as the Sox lost, 12-11, bringing an end to a winless road trip.
"I don't want them to be down about this game today," Renteria said. "I want them to actually have a lot more positives to take away from it and build on it and see that they can be focused and relaxed at the same time and give themselves opportunities. It kind of steamrolls, hopefully we're now out of a little rut, if you might call it that, and we're moving forward."

A resurgent Yoan Moncada starred in the loss for the White Sox, hitting the first grand slam of his career in the second inning and reaching base three times for the second consecutive game. He also added two sparkling defensive plays in the field, featuring a running, over-the-shoulder catch in the 10th and a diving play in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded that preserved the tie and sent the game into extra innings.
Moncada's 1st career grand slam highlights big effort 

The A's seemed as if they had cast the knockout blow with a two-out, go-ahead three-run homer by Jed Lowrie in the bottom of the eighth, giving them an 11-10 lead. But with Chicago on the ropes in the top of the ninth, Welington Castillo's two-out double was followed by a game-tying single from Tim Anderson, and the teams battled on.
"When we tied the game, we were very excited," Moncada said through an interpreter. "It was a very good moment for us. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, when we had the opportunity to shut them down with the bases loaded, that was huge for us. It was a big burst of energy for us. We tried to keep that moving forward, and I think we did that in a good way until the 14th."
Renteria had been adamant that the hits would eventually start falling for his struggling offense, and those words quickly rang true on Wednesday, as early RBI singles from Nicky Delmonico and Adam Engel were followed by Moncada's slam to spot the White Sox a 6-1 lead after two innings.
That was already Chicago's largest offensive output since April 5, and the Sox kept adding on, finishing the game with 11 runs on 17 hits, surpassing their scoring output from their last five games combined. Jose Abreu and Delmonico each had three hits, a season-high for Delmonico.

But after the Sox scored five in the second, the A's answered with three in the bottom of the frame. Chicago put up a three-spot in the fourth, but Oakland came through with four more of its own.
"That's the sign of a true fight," Renteria said. "You're battling. You're not giving up. It's a relentless effort to continue to try to win every inning. Again, we took it down to the wire, and we didn't come out ahead this time, but I think you see the guys waking up a bit."
With an off-day to regroup and a much-needed return to Chicago in store, Renteria feels encouraged about his team's immediate future.
"It's a long season, and I hope that today marks the beginning of a little bit of a turn," Renteria said. "Not that this will not happen again, but as long as we keep moving forward in terms of our approaches, how confident we might be, giving ourselves a chance, we'll be OK." 
After the Sox tied the game with Anderson's two-out heroics in the top of the frame, the A's loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth on three walks by reliever Nate Jones. With two outs, Chad Pinder hit a sharp grounder towards the gap between first and second, but Moncada ranged to his left, snared the ball on a dive, and made the throw to first to preserve the tie and send the game to extra innings.
"When I saw the ground ball coming to my field, I said, 'OK, I have to stop it,'" Moncada said. "So I ran as hard as I could, and I was able to cut the ball off and make the play. The difference between that moment and the home run was that the home run was just focusing on hitting the ball hard. It wasn't a do-or-die situation like it was in the ninth inning."

In each of the first two games of the series, Moncada reached base to lead off the game and stole second. Both times, he was left stranded at third as Chicago's situational hitting woes continued. On Wednesday, he repeated the feat again, singling up the middle and stealing second, and moved to third on a flyout by Abreu.
And in a sign of things to come, the White Sox were finally able to cash in, with Delmonico's two-out RBI single up the middle, bringing Moncada home for Chicago's first run-scoring hit with a man in scoring position since April 10.
"It was good for us as a team, because with the hit, we scored first," Moncada said. "We were able to get the chance to command the game, and as a team, that's what you want."
The Sox finished Wednesday 8-for-20 with runners in scoring position. In their previous eight games, they had been just 5-for-62 in such situations.

Just about the only thing that didn't happen in Wednesday's game was a position player pitching.
With the White Sox out of relievers and Bruce Rondon's pitch count soaring to 47 in three innings of relief, both Shields and Lucas Giolito went to the clubhouse to retrieve their cleats. Ultimately, the Sox asked Shields to make the second relief appearance of his career, and the first since June 9, 2010 against the then-Florida Marlins.
"They asked me if I could pitch, and I was ready to rock and roll," Shields said. "I didn't get the job done today."

The final game time of five hours and 48 minutes was the longest for the Sox since a six-hour, 19-minute game on July 9, 2006 against the Red Sox that was decided in 19 innings. It was also the third-longest game in A's history.
The longest game the White Sox played in 2017 was four hours, 10 minutes. Wednesday's game almost surpassed that through just nine innings, with the clock sitting at the four hour, seven minute mark with the game tied 11-11 following the bottom of the ninth.
"I'm not as frustrated as you might think. I'm proud of how they continued to play the whole game," -- Renteria
The A's trailed, 6-3, and had runners on the corners with one out in the bottom of the second when Lowrie grounded to Anderson. The White Sox shortstop quickly relayed to second baseman Moncada, who fired to first baseman Matt Davidson for what appeared to be an inning-ending double play. After further review, however, Lowrie was called safe at first to extend the inning. Lowrie's hustle down the line plated another run for Oakland -- one that proved to be instrumental later on in sending the game to extra innings.

The Sox have an off-day Thursday (this one is scheduled, not weather-related) before opening a six-game homestand on Friday night against the defending world champion Astros. Shields was scheduled to take the mound for Chicago against Justin Verlander, but the team will use Thursday's off day to re-evaluate their pitching schedule. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. CT at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Do-Hyoung Park is a contributor to based in the Bay Area.