CHICAGO -- By simply looking at the final numbers, the White Sox had a very successful 2020 season.
Rick Renteria’s crew finished at 35-25 and tied for second with Cleveland in the American League Central, only one game behind the repeat division champs from Minnesota. But it’s difficult to not think about what might have been for the South Siders after they dropped a 10-8 decision to the Cubs on Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The White Sox, on Sept. 17, became the first team to clinch an AL playoff spot, holding a three-game lead over the Twins at the time. Then they posted a 2-8 mark over the final 10 games, losing series to the Cubs and Reds and getting swept in four by Cleveland.
That Cleveland sweep, coupled with the Tribe’s comeback victory against the Pirates on Sunday, gave the Indians the tiebreaker and dropped the White Sox to the AL’s seventh seed. They will open Wild Card action Tuesday in Oakland, with regrets but certainly no time to lament.
Renteria delivered that message Sunday, after the White Sox rallied from a 10-1 deficit to bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth.
“I went back in there and told them they battled their [tails] off. Keep your heads up because the next phase is starting,” Renteria said. “We have to stay positive. We are getting ready to go give ourselves a chance to continue on this journey, and I fully expect they will give us everything they’ve got in order to give us a chance.
“What gave me a little bit more optimism is the way we continued to fight back. I mean, it was 10-1. However you want to look at it, however it ended up ultimately happening, we had the potential tying run at the plate."
Nomar Mazara represented the tying run against left-hander Andrew Chafin, after the White Sox scored five in the eighth with the help of three walks and four wild pitches and then added two more in the ninth on Yasmani Grandal’s home run. Mazara took a called third strike, at least according to home-plate umpire Will Little, but Statcast showed the pitch missed the zone.
There was no guarantee the White Sox would complete the rally even if Mazara had reached base. But with the Twins losing in extras to the Reds, a White Sox win would have given them the tiebreaker to win the AL Central.
“We did everything we could to try to put ourselves back on the track, and it seemed like it was snatched from us,” Renteria said. “With that being said, there were a lot of things that happened to make me feel like, ‘OK, we are still battling and fighting.’ That was the most important thing, as it ended up. Winning the ballgame would have been the icing on the cake. That’s what we were looking to do. But they showed a lot of fight.”
“Even though the season didn't end the way that we were expecting, we accomplished one of our first goals, that was to be in the postseason” said Reynaldo López, the White Sox starting and losing pitcher, through interpreter Billy Russo. “We're going to the postseason, and that's a new chance for us.”
López, who was mentioned by Renteria as a candidate for the third-starter spot in the best-of-three AL Wild Card Series, allowed six runs over 1 1/3 innings to go with three walks and two home runs. The right-hander finished the season with a 6.49 ERA.
Those numbers are yesterday’s news, as the White Sox get ready for their first playoff appearance since 2008.
“If we don’t respond, we are out,” Renteria said. “You fight all year long to finally put yourself in position for the dance. Now you have to perform. If you don’t perform, there’s no tomorrow. There’s no redemption until next year. We have to try to get as far as we possibly can. Stay positive.”
“Now for us, it's time to keep moving forward and get ready for the postseason,” said Robert through Russo. “We're going to keep doing what we've been doing for the whole season and just play hard and try to win games. That's going to be our mindset."