CHICAGO – For a while this week, it looked as if the White Sox might be staying out West for a little while longer this October.
A young, confident team looked calm and poised in their first playoff game in 12 years on Tuesday, shutting down the second-seeded A’s in a 4-1 win that put them a step away from the American League Division Series in Los Angeles.
Then things caught up a bit with this White Sox team as they played the second and third postseason game of this current era.
Oakland started fast in Game 2 and held on for a win, then rallied from an early 3-0 hole to beat the White Sox 6-4. It brought an unceremonious end to a very unusual season that saw Rick Renteria’s club take many steps forward.
So which emotion is more dominant for the club: Disappointment over the moment loss or the excitement of what could be ahead? Even moments after Thursday’s loss, the latter was the prevailing thought.
“It was good for guys to get in. We got a taste of it,” said shortstop Tim Anderson, who made his playoff debut this week. “I think it’s just gonna make them more hungry to get back there. We battled today. I couldn’t be more happier or proud of the way that we fought.
“I know that we gave it our all.”
One could say the same about the White Sox themselves as they enjoyed their first breakthrough season of this era that began with the Chris Sale trade in December of 2016. Over the course of 60 games, the team had flashes of greatness from a number of individual players and a mid-season run put them at the top of the American League into the second-to-last week.
The ending wasn’t great – with the team losing seven of their last eight games to miss out on a division title then dropping the final two games of the Wild Card series. Yet the hope generated since July tended to overwhelm the negatives that crept up late.
Players like Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal made their major league debut while Tim Anderson (.322, 10 HR, 21 RBI) and Jose Abreu (.317, 19 HR, 60 RBI) kept their name in the MVP conversation all season long.
Lucas Giolito’s first playoff start was one of the best of his career, pitching a perfect game into the seventh inning in the White Sox victory. He along with all the players mentioned above made their postseason debut, which is perhaps the most valuable part of this shortened campaign.
“Despite the fact it was a short season, there’s a lot of growth,” said catcher James McCann, who made his playoff debut this week. “Guys learned a lot about themselves and just getting the experience to play in the playoffs. That’s a big time thing.”
Because of that, major things are expected out of the group now moving forward, especially in 2021. Just getting to the first round of the playoffs may not be enough as the White Sox figure to be among the favorites for a World Series title whenever the next season begins.
For a team that hadn’t had a record over .500 since 2012, the extra expectations are more than welcome.
“The organization is moving in the right direction. There’s no way of not saying that that’s happening,” said Renteria. “The Chicago White Sox are moving in the right direction.”
With the start coming in a breakthrough 2020 season that just ended a bit sooner than some might have liked.