MLB playoffs: A’s stay alive vs. White Sox, but they’ll have disadvantage in winner-take-all Game 32 min read
In just looking at the final score, Wednesday’s Game 2 of the Wild Card Series for the White Sox was a failure. They had a 1-0 lead in the series with a chance to close down the second-seeded Oakland Athletics in two games. They lost, 5-3. An error led to two runs and then a pair of homers later gave the A’s their five runs. The White Sox were getting shut out through seven innings.
Full context behind how things transpired, however, paints a bit of a different picture. Yes, the White Sox still lost and now they are just one loss away from going home for the winter after an incredibly fun but abbreviated 2020 season. They also really set themselves up for Game 3 thanks to their final two innings.
Tim Anderson led off the eighth with a single and it chased starter Chris Bassitt from the game. Though there were no outs in the eighth, A’s manager Bob Melvin elected to go with closer Liam Hendriks. A Yasmani Grandal homer made it 5-2, and the White Sox rallied again in the ninth, eventually getting a run walked home to make it a two-run game. Jose Abreu grounded out (with authority) to end the game with the bases loaded.
In between all that, Hendriks threw a whopping 49 pitches and was pulled with two outs in the ninth. His previous high in 2020 was 29 pitches. Obviously with this being the playoffs and Melvin’s team with their proverbial backs against the wall means he was fully justified to have Hendriks go beyond where he would in the regular season and with a much shorter regular season — lower overall workload — the big count here is probably fine, long term.
In the short term, however, there has to be concern going to Game 3. There is no day off. Hendriks is one of the best relievers in baseball and he just completely emptied his tank. The highest number of pitches he threw all year on the second part of back-to-back outings was 24, and it happened to be his worst outing of the year (1 1/3 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 ER).
Melvin told reporters after the game that Hendriks is available for Game 3 and that isn’t really surprising. Even if he wakes up Thursday morning and his arm is barking, surely Hendriks would try to give it a go in a must-win game, and if he’s not available, why would the A’s even tell the White Sox?
If Hendriks does pitch and then struggle, however, keep in mind how hard the White Sox made him work in the eighth and ninth innings in Game 2. These types of things can have residual effects in the playoffs.