OAKLAND -- A defense that has rightfully received its fair share of scrutiny saved the White Sox at a critical moment on Friday night.
With the tying run headed for home and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the White Sox executed a perfect relay that led to a game-ending rundown in a 7-6 victory over the Oakland A’s. It’s the second time in two weeks the White Sox have caught a runner leaning in the ninth inning and White Sox manager Robin Ventura hopes his players realize the importance of proper execution.
“You do things technically sound, you start gaining momentum,” Ventura said. “You hit the cutoff man, you kinda back pick and be able to get a guy. When you start finding out you do things right defensively and make some relays you get outs you might not normally get -- it needs to happen. You have to be technically sound and be able to hit guys and you know it’s the big leagues. That’s what you expect.”
Adam Eaton started the 8-6-3-5-2 play as he raced over and fielded Coco Crisp’s double on one hop off the left-center field fence. Eaton fired a perfect strike to Alexei Ramirez, whose throw to home would have easily nailed Stephen Vogt, who began the play on first. But before it could reach the plate, first baseman Jose Abreu made a split-second decision to cut off the throw after he spotted a late stop sign by A’s third-base coach Mike Gallego, which Vogt didn’t realize until it was too late.
“That’s an instinct play,” Gold Glove winning first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “Is he going and is it going to be close where I need to let it go? Is he going and he’s dead to where I have time to cut it and turn it and throw it? Or, like Josey, cut it and kind of evaluate whether I’m going to throw home or third. That’s being in the right spot. If he’s not there, who knows what happens.”
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Abreu chose to throw the ball to Gordon Beckham, who had returned to the third base as he watched the relay perfectly develop. Beckham then forced the action, charging toward Vogt -- who stuck his left arm in the air to interfere as he turned back toward home -- and throwing to catcher Geovany Soto, who applied the tag.
“It was a good relay by all those guys,” Beckham said. “A perfect example of the work you put in. It’s a strong way to end it.”
After Abreu threw to third, he raced over to the bag to back up Beckham in case the rundown continued. While he called the final play exciting, Abreu likes the end result and what it can do for the White Sox.
“The most important thing was the victory,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “The way we came back, the way we fought back and got the victory, it kept the momentum. I think at this point all the players know what we are able to do and the confidence is very important right now, it’s very high. All the elements together are very exciting.”