It was going so well. The White Sox were flying high with a playoff spot secured and sitting in first place after taking three of four from division rival Minnesota. All they had to do was survive a trip to Ohio to face Cincinnati and Cleveland for seven games, then back home for three games against the Cubs. It wasn’t exactly a time to coast, but even splitting their final 10 games wouldn’t be too bad.
Eight losses later, all of which saw them surrender at least seven runs, the White Sox look like a team running out of gas. Add in a couple of gut-punch, walk-off losses to Cleveland and the excitement for a return to the postseason after a 12-year absence has turned into foreboding.
There are rumblings about Ricky Renteria losing his job over the late swoon, though that seems a bit premature. Until the final 10 days of the season, the White Sox longest losing streak had been three games. Losing six straight at the end isn’t great, but it doesn’t seem quite fair to pin all the weirdness of a 60-game sprint on the manager.
Renteria isn’t blameless, however, as there are a few questionable lineup decisions that can’t be overlooked. Keeping Edwin Encarnación in there at all is baffling and playing Nomar Mazara more than once a week to spell Adam Engel is very frustrating. Other in-game decisions have looked bad at the time and worse in hindsight. Leaving Eloy Jiménez in a tight game against Minnesota could have been disastrous and bringing Carlos Rodon in against Cleveland with the bases loaded for his first appearance since August 3 was disastrous.
So the White Sox limp into the postseason as a third-place team that only got in because of the expanded format. They get to face the A’s in Oakland, which hasn’t been the kindest place for the Sox over the years, in a best-of-three series. Statistically, the teams are pretty even when it comes to pitching with the White Sox having the edge in offense. Unfortunately, Oakland Coliseum is a pitcher’s park.
The Sox have a puncher’s chance because anything can happen in a 16-team tournament particularly between teams that have neither seen each other nor have any common opponents. It’s just that it was so much more promising two weeks ago. Let’s hope September 17 wasn’t the high water mark of the White Sox rebuild. If that’s the case, it might be time for more than one Rick to lose his job.