Call it a moment of youthful over-exuberance. Or think of it perhaps as a case of getting caught up in the moment.
But in that instance on Friday night, in that meaningful moment when the White Sox seemed to have everything lined up for a dramatic comeback against the Orioles, it all disappeared with one simple base-running mistake.
And just like that, a chance for the Sox to take a step in the right direction turned into a disappointing 7-5 loss at U.S. Cellular Field, the Sox’ seventh in their last nine games.
The Sox’ three-run eighth-inning had trimmed what had been a five-run deficit to just two. After a Carlos Sanchez RBI double gave the Sox runners on second and third with just one out and the top of the lineup looming, everything appeared to still be in place.
But when Dioner Navarro got hung up between third base and home plate on a sharply hit Adam Eaton groundout and the Orioles threw Navarro out at third on a play that had to be confirmed by video replay, everything changed.
And for a Sox team that has proven it is unwilling to go down without a fight, the opportunity to capture what could have been a big victory watched another game turn into another gut-wrenching loss.
“They gave us some opportunities and we just couldn’t catch all the way back up,” manager Robin Ventura said. “I liked the way our guys were going after it.”
But rather than suggest Navarro’s base-running had cut the eighth-inning rally short, Ventura said instead, Sanchez’s push toward third base behind had forced Navarro’s hand.
Ventura said Sanchez should have known better and should have held back based on where the ball was hit. After video replay suggested Navarro had gotten his hand around the tag, Ventura challenged the call, hoping to extend the opportunistic inning.
But the call stood, forcing the Sox to try to erase the deficit in the ninth inning when the Sox again had chances. But like was the case an inning before, it wasn’t enough.
Afterward, , Sanchez stood in front of his locker and took responsibility.
“It was my mistake,” Sanchez said through a team translator. “That’s something that is unacceptable. That can’t happen again. It’s my fault.”
For a team facing a double-digit deficit in the American League Central, over-thinking things – whether it be a late-game comeback or a way to climb back into playoff contention can’t be an option.
Before Friday’s loss, centerfielder Adam Eaton made it clear that the Sox couldn’t get ahead of themselves. They couldn’t consider the steepness of the climb ahead over taking simple steps forward.
If you lose two out of three (games in a series) and you say, ‘Well, we have to play .650 ball, that’s not going to help matters,” Eaton said Friday afternoon.
But when given the chance to lock their focus onto the singular mission, everything changed in the matter of a single play that has seemed to define the Sox all season.
After Navarro was thrown out at third, boos rang out. A three-minute video review ensued. And when the out call was upheld, the momentum slipped away, leaving the Sox to grapple with another setback.
“A lot of things went their way,” said Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez, who allowed four runs and 10 hits over six innings against his former team. “It’s part of the game, (it’s) a game of inches. (You) can’t do anything about it, (but) come back next time (and) keep working hard.”
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