Troublesome 10th inning spoils Keuchel gem

La Russa admits confusion with automatic runner rule led to Hendriks running bases

May 5th, 2021

The 10th inning that resulted in the White Sox falling to the Reds, 1-0, on Wednesday at Great American Ball Park was much more complicated than what initially played out.

Closer Liam Hendriks entered the game in the bottom of the ninth in a two-out, bases-loaded situation, while Jake Lamb replaced Andrew Vaughn in left field as part of a double switch. It took five pitches for Hendriks to get the White Sox out of the inning and into the dugout, where he grabbed a helmet with the game in a scoreless tie.

Since Vaughn had recorded the final out in the top of the ninth, Hendriks -- who had taken Vaughn's spot in the lineup -- took second base to start the 10th as Chicago’s automatic runner, with Yasmani Grandal at the plate.

Last season, MLB implemented the extra-inning rule, which states that a runner will start each half-inning on second base. The player who made the last out in the prior inning will be the automatic runner, though if that player is a pitcher, teams are allowed to select the preceding hitter in the lineup to be the runner at second.

The White Sox coaching staff was unaware that that No. 4 hitter José Abreu was an option to be the automatic runner, instead of Hendriks running the bases in the top of the 10th.

"I didn't know that," manager Tony La Russa said. "We all thought Liam was gonna be the runner and that's who I wanted, because if you wanted to double switch to keep him in the game -- if you look at Abreu, Moncada and so forth, that's not who you want to double switch out of the game. So I wasn't aware that Abreu could run. I thought it had to be the guy who made the last out, or [his] spot in the order."

The White Sox fell to 0-3 in extra-inning games this season, while the Reds improved to 5-2.

“Yeah, we did know that," Cincinnati manager David Bell said of the rule. "The league made it really clear that was going to be a new rule in Spring Training. ... There’s a lot to think about in those extra-inning games. They are fun to be a part of, definitely to watch, but there’s a lot going on."

Hendriks represented the closest opportunity the White Sox had to scoring in the entire game. After Grandal worked a leadoff walk, Leury García grounded into a fielder's choice, with Grandal retired at second and Hendriks advancing to third.

But the situation looked promising: One out with runners on the corners for Billy Hamilton. But García was thrown out as he attempted to steal second on a 1-2 pitch.

"Well, he can run and they were playing the infield in. We wanted to be aggressive and they threw him out,” La Russa said on the decision to give García the green light to steal. “We tried to be aggressive all day long, we just couldn't get it in that situation."

Hamilton swung through the next pitch and slammed his bat on the ground when home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook closed his fist to call the strikeout. The White Sox lost the game in the bottom half of the inning with Jesse Winker hitting a line drive to Hamilton in center that scored Tucker Barnhart.

“This one's tough. You want to win every game, and we're putting ourselves in positions to win the game,” Dallas Keuchel said. "It is what it is. Some unfortunate events that have happened in some of these losses ... we're all trying to be perfect. Achieving perfection is the hardest thing to do in this sport. We're going to continue to try to strive for it each and every game, but I'll take heartbreaking losses rather than getting blown out.”

Keuchel was tasked with following Dylan Cease’s impeccable start Tuesday night with magic of his own. While Keuchel was 0-for-2 at the plate, he went head-to-head with Reds starter Sonny Gray in nearly identical outings of two hits over seven scoreless innings.

By textbook definition, Keuchel made a quality start: Seven innings, no runs, three walks and one strikeout. The southpaw didn’t overpower the strike zone, but his 14 groundouts did keep the Reds, who lead MLB with 43 home runs, inside the park.

It was Chicago's offense, however, that couldn’t back up Keuchel’s outing with quality at-bats.

Both starters gave way to the bullpen in the eighth, with Tejay Antone taking the mound for Gray and Yermín Mercedes pinch-hitting for Keuchel to start the inning. Mercedes struck out and Tim Anderson followed up with a strikeout of his own to put the White Sox at 10 punchouts through eight innings.

Nine White Sox hitters were retired consecutively by Gray between the third and sixth innings, with four successive batters going down via strikeout. Chicago did not record an extra-base hit in its 30 at-bats, with the farthest hit ball going 281 feet to right field off the bat of Nick Madrigal.