White Sox frustrated by another late rally

Keuchel's ERA at 1.99; Rodón falters in return to relief

September 25th, 2020

The postseason-bound White Sox never envisioned their road to the end of the 2020 regular season looking as treacherous as it has this past week.

They lost two of three at Cincinnati, then dropped four straight at Cleveland, including two walk-off losses and a 5-4 heartbreaker at Progressive Field on Thursday night, moving Chicago one game behind the Twins in the American League Central and one ahead of the Indians, with three games remaining against the Cubs at home this weekend.

The White Sox came to Cleveland with a magic number of four. They leave with their postseason momentum shut down.

“I'm a firm believer that from every game we can learn something,” said White Sox starter , who threw six innings of one-run ball to lower his ERA to 1.99. “I'm hoping this team, which I believe in very much, is going to right the ship.”

“Obviously in this particular moment, where we’re going, we’d like to get them,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “Our guys did everything they needed to do. You guys can all put it on me in terms of how this ended up turning out.”

Renteria’s self-blame was likely generated by the Indians’ four-run seventh. That rally came after the White Sox scored three in the top of the inning off , who had allowed one hit through six innings.

Cleveland loaded the bases with nobody out against , who replaced Keuchel when the southpaw hit his pitch count of 93 in his second start since returning from the injured list for back spasms. Cordero recorded the next two outs without a run, and Renteria elected to go to -- who was activated off the 45-day IL before the game and had not pitched since Aug. 3 -- to protect the 4-1 lead.

Rodón will be used in the bullpen if he makes the White Sox playoff roster, as expected. But he has not pitched in relief since his rookie campaign of 2015, and it was his fourth career relief appearance out of 96 games. Cesar Hernandez delivered a two-run opposite-field single, with an exit velocity of 76.9 mph, and José Ramírez followed up with the go-ahead two-run double.

After the team’s fifth straight loss ended a 1-6 road trip, Rodón absorbed the blame from Renteria.

“Any of us have to be ready for that kind of situation, especially going into this postseason,” Rodón said. “I’m the one who threw the pitch. I’m the one who gave up the hits. [Renteria] had nothing to do with throwing any pitch. So it’s not on him.”

“He had a tough position to come into, especially with the way Cesar had handled the bat tonight, and José's been off the charts,” Keuchel said. “Man, I was glad I wasn't in the game, because that's a very tough spot."

That one out in the seventh was the only task for Rodón, with , who also was activated off the 45-day IL on Thursday, set to start the eighth.

“We talk about situations that are going to present themselves as we move forward into the postseason,” Renteria said. “Do I want to find out then? Or do I want to find out now? We already had it set up. In a perfect world, best-laid plans, obviously, Bum goes out there in the eighth and does what he did and it works out. Everybody wants to put it on me? Put it on me.”

In terms of division tiebreakers, Cleveland holds the edge over the White Sox with an 8-2 season-series lead. The Twins have the same edge over the Indians via their season-series win, while the White Sox hold the edge over Minnesota, despite splitting 10 games, via a better record in the division. The Twins would win a three-way tiebreaker because of their better combined record against the other two.

Left fielder exited the game with right foot soreness and will be re-evaluated Friday. He was removed after scoring a run in the top of the seventh, when the White Sox looked poised to end this week of misery.

“We're playing good ballclubs,” Keuchel said. “It doesn't get any easier with the Cubs, and it's not going to get any easier with who we match up with in the AL Wild Card [Series]. We're going to have to learn quick how to really put our stamp on the end of games. We've showed prowess. We've showed ability to weather storms, and it's going to be fun more than anything.”