CINCINNATI — The White Sox had no punch.
The Reds had one, but not until the 10th inning. But it was all they needed when Jesse Winker walked off a 1-0 interleague victory Wednesday with a single to center against closer Liam Hendriks that scored free runner Tucker Barnhart, leaving the Sox with a split in their two-game series against the Reds an invigorating win the night before.
Of equal significance to the outcome in this one was what transpired in the top of the 10th, when Hendriks was unnecessarily used as the Sox’ free runner after entering the game in relief of Michael Kopech in the ninth. Hendriks was left stranded at third after Leury Garcia was caught stealing second and light-hitting Billy Hamilton struck out.
But Hendriks, who entered in the fifth spot in the lineup on manager Tony La Russa’s double switch, did not have to be on the field. That’s according to a rule which allows the previous batter in the lineup (in this case Jose Abreu) to run instead of the batter who made the last out in the ninth — if that batter is a pitcher.
La Russa was not aware of the rule until a reporter read it to him after the game. Apparently none of his coaches, including bench coach Miguel Cairo, were aware either.
“I’m guessing you know the rules better,” La Russa said. “Now I know.”
La Russa has come under scrutiny for some in-game decisions in his second tour with the Sox after coming out of a nine-year retirement to manage at age 76, and this one only arms his detractors with more ammunition. He was also questioned for having Garcia attempt to steal against Barnhart, especially with Hendriks likely playing it safe at third base — as a pitcher not accustomed to running the bases and to avoid injury risk — staying planted at the bag.
“He can run,” La Russa said of Garcia’s speed. “They were playing the infield in. We wanted to be aggressive. They threw him out. We were trying to be aggressive all day long.”
“That’s a big play, right there,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It changes a lot.”
Hamilton, playing center field in place of the injured Luis Robert, struck out and slammed his bat on the dirt, finishing an 0-for-4 day with two strikeouts, his average dropping to .136.
Not that Hamilton was alone trying to get a hit. The Sox had two all day, both against starter Sonny Gray.
The loss dropped the Sox to 16-13, leaving them with nothing to show for the latest excellent start by a rotation boasting the lowest ERA in the American League.
Following six scoreless innings from Dylan Cease in a 9-0 victory Tuesday, Dallas Keuchel pitched seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball with 14 groundball outs.
Keuchel walked three, throwing a season-high 95 pitches and lowering his ERA to 3.79.
“Sonny, the way he pitched last time out I knew we were in for a doozy,” Keuchel said. “I was fortunate to get some groundball outs. Some stellar defense behind me, those guys deserve a lot of credit, too. Pito [Abreu], what can you say about that guy.”
The Sox, meanwhile, did not get a runner past second base before Hendriks was planted there in the 10th. Having him run didn’t directly cost the Sox the game, but it was a bad look.
“I have to check the rule,” La Russa said. “That was why the guys on the bench came out and questioned me about it, that Liam was going to be the runner. I said, ‘Yeah, I know.’ So we didn’t know.”
When asked about the scrutiny La Russa has endured, Keuchel said he didn’t know the rule either.
“I’ve seen some wacky and weird stuff in this game,” Keuchel said. “That’s one you chalk up to how lengthy the [pandemic] rule [changes] has been. If it’s anybody’s fault it’s kind of everybody’s fault. The manager takes the brunt of everything.’’