Every factor but one suggested there was no way Rick Renteria would remove Miguel Gonzalez in the seventh inning on Monday afternoon.
Of course, Gonzalez didn’t know that.
But even as he walked to the mound with two on and no outs in the seventh and Wrigley Field roaring, Renteria didn’t have any intention of pulling Gonzalez.
Trades and injuries have given the White Sox manager even less wiggle room with which to work than the one-run lead Gonzalez was trying to protect. As long he was convinced his pitcher was game, Renteria would stay with Gonzalez. Gonzalez acquiesced and soon thereafter the White Sox were on their way to their first victory since July 8. The White Sox topped the Cubs 3-1 and in doing so snapped a nine-game losing streak.
“I just went in there to reaffirm that we were thinking the same way,” Renteria said. “He was thinking the same way. It was kind of easy.
“He said ‘I got this.’ He defended his ground.”
Even though he had a front-row seat for the conversation, catcher Kevan Smith had little understanding of what transpired. The rookie said Renteria and Gonzalez spoke entirely in Spanish after Jon Jay and Javier Baez singled to open the bottom of the seventh inning. Smith heard Renteria mention to Gonzalez that lefty David Holmberg was ready to face switch hitter Ian Happ. Beyond that, all Smith heard from Gonzalez was ‘bueno’ and ‘listo,’ and Renteria was headed back to the visiting dugout.
But you don’t have to be a linguist to decipher what issues the White Sox pitching staff faces after a trying month.
Prior to Gonzalez pitching into the eighth, the White Sox hadn’t had a starter complete seven innings since June 16. An already overworked bullpen has also had to deal with season-ending injuries to Zach Putnam, Nate Jones and top relief prospect Zack Burdi. And those issues have been even further compounded by the trades of Jose Quintana, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle in the past 12 days.
So even though Gonzalez was on the verge of facing the top of the Cubs order a fourth time, Renteria had to stick with him so he could save top relievers Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak for later.
“I said ‘Just give me the ball,’ ” Gonzalez said. “ ’I’m OK. I’m fine. I’m feeling OK.’ Just walked away and I was able to get out of that jam. That was a big one.”
Smith was also happy with the decision. He liked how Gonzalez — who threw strikes on 73 of 105 pitches — had competed. Smith thought Gonzalez had great stuff and heard positive reviews from opposing hitters.
“(Gonzalez) had it,” Smith said. “The guys were coming up to the plate saying this guy has got some stuff today. It was a big moment to kind of prove that he can be a long guy, especially late in the game like that. Big pressure situation. Obviously it was getting pretty rowdy, but he stayed composed and pitched his way out of it.”
First was a five-pitch strikeout of Happ that ended with a swinging strike on a curveball. Jason Heyward then popped out to shallow center for the second out. Kris Bryant worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases. But Gonzalez jumped ahead of Anthony Rizzo in the count 1-2 before he got the star first baseman to fly out deep to center to strand the bases loaded.
Gonzalez returned in the eighth and retired one more hitter before he exited after a Kyle Schwarber single. The effort was plenty for Renteria and the White Sox, who also wiggled out of jams in the eighth and ninth inning.
“Sometimes you just don't have any other option,” Renteria said. “You just have to do what you have to do. They had a really good idea of how they wanted to attack those guys. …
“Miggy did a really nice job.”