Will White Sox’ late life in Game 2 loss to A’s carry over into series finale? Should be fun finding out.

After a listless start, they fight back to make a game of it Wednesday.

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Wild Card Round - Chicago White Sox v Oakland Athletics - Game Two

White Sox teammates congratulate Yasmani Grandal after his two-run home run in the eighth inning of their 5-3 Game 2 loss to the A’s.

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

For the longest time Wednesday, it looked like the young White Sox had dutifully unrolled their mats and laid down for naptime. The mighty power and spirit they had displayed the day before were gone, replaced by a lot of nothing.

Slowly but surely, though, that nothing was replaced by a lot of something. Energy. Resolve. Fury.

After falling behind to the Athletics by five runs early, the Sox had the bases loaded with a chance to take the lead with two outs in the ninth. They got one run off Oakland closer Liam Hendriks. Jose Abreu’s groundout ended the day for the Sox, and the 5-3 loss means that the teams will face off Thursday in a winner-take-all Game 3 of their American League wild-card series.

It was a defeat, and it would be silly to cast it as a victory for the Sox. But there are various shades of defeat, and this one had a fiery red hue to it that could help in Game 3. The Sox battled back from a difficult time against A’s ace Chris Bassitt, and they battled back from themselves.

They made a game of Game 2 after looking like they wanted to make a getaway.

Is that faint praise? No, it is not.

Is that something to grab on to? Yes, it is.

“Playoff time is all about momentum — who has it and who doesn’t,’’ Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal said.

“They played their [butts] off,’’ manager Rick Renteria said of his players. “We didn’t finish it, but we battled.’’

What started the Sox fire? Grandal hit a two-run homer off Hendriks in the eighth, and at that point the prevailing thought in Chicago probably was, “Hmmm. Interesting.’’ Abreu followed with a single. Even more interesting. Then plate umpire Mike Muchlinski rang up Nomar Mazara on a pitch that was about an inch out of the strike zone. With no fans in the stands because of the pandemic, the TV audience could hear the Sox’ dugout screaming ugliness in Muchlinski’s general direction.

Does anger work in baseball? I usually don’t think so, but the Sox sure seemed to come alive after that.

“The last thing I want to do is have our guys start to focus on those particular situations,’’ Renteria said. “What is irritating just from a competitive standpoint for everybody is the moment in which they occur.’’

He meant in the eighth inning of a playoff game in which your team finally seems to have found some life. And by that, he might have meant, “Have you considered corrective eye wear, Mike?”

The charged-up Sox had a chance to win in the ninth, and they comported themselves well against Hendriks, one of the best closers in the AL. With two outs, Nick Madrigal, whom you’ll be hearing about more later, singled. Tim Anderson followed with a single, because that’s what he does. Yoan Moncada walked. The A’s brought in Jake Diekman, who walked Grandal, scoring Madrigal. Two-run ballgame.

And then Abreu’s hard groundout to second. Deflating? No, deflating would have been a listless 5-0 loss in a big game. What happened in the eighth and ninth innings should be uplifting as the team heads into Game 3. Especially after how they started.

Early on, the Sox had two errors and a baserunning mistake … but enough about Madrigal. OK, it was not a good day for the rookie, but to pin the loss on him is to ignore all the Sox players who didn’t bring their “A’’ games to the A’s game for the first seven innings.

It wasn’t acceptable, but it was understandable. You never know what to expect from a young team. It can look vibrant, the way the Sox did Tuesday, and it can look absent, the way the Sox did for a lot of Wednesday. But it’s worth noting that they had a lot of that nothingness thrust upon them by Bassitt, the way Lucas Giolito had made Oakland feel empty Tuesday.

Down 4-0, the Sox had an opportunity to get back in the game in the third inning. Madrigal, on first after a single, didn’t advance to third on a steal attempt during Anderson’s single to right field. The gaffe cost the Sox a run when Moncada hit a ball that Mark Canha leaped to catch at the left-field wall.

Madrigal had two errors, the most costly one a grounder that skipped over his glove in the first inning. It led to two Oakland runs. So, no, it probably couldn’t have gone worse for the kid. But if you’re going to reap the fruits of a rebuild, you’re going to have to live with some of the growing pains, too. It was Madrigal’s second playoff game and the 31st big-league game of his career.

He started that ninth-inning mini-rally. So there’s that.

I guess we’ll find out Thursday if momentum has flesh and bones. It sure looked like it was pushing the Sox along late in Game 2.

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