The White Sox have been running out of tomorrows for a while now.
Now they've officially exhausted their supply.
The late-season slide spun its way to an unfortunate conclusion for the White Sox on Sunday afternoon, and despite an insane comeback effort that started with a 10-1 deficit at the beginning of the eighth inning and ended with the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, the South Siders lost eight of their final 10 games after clinching the franchise's first postseason berth in a dozen years.
That berth was never in jeopardy of being taken away from them, of course. But José Abreu admitted the team relaxed after clinching, and they went from the best record in the American League to the seventh seed on the Junior Circuit's side of the playoff bracket in 10 days. They didn't win the AL Central crown. They didn't secure a home-field advantage for the first round.
For the most part, it was because the offense disappeared during a nightmarish road trip through Ohio. But then the pitching followed this weekend against the Crosstown-rival Cubs. Though Sunday's late comeback evened the ledger a bit, it didn't change the fact that White Sox pitchers gave up 25 runs in three games.
Now it's off to Oakland for the opening round of the playoffs to take on the No. 2 seed Athletics, who won the AL West in a runaway this season. The numbers still favor the White Sox on the offensive side, but they had a big head start before scoring just 22 runs on that 1-6 road trip. The pitching numbers barely favor the A's, though the White Sox will be throwing the superior pitchers in Games 1 and 2, with Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel on the bump, even with former White Sox pitcher Chris Bassitt one of the hottest hurlers in baseball right now.
Thing is, no matter where the White Sox have apparent advantages, one truth remains: They haven't done it against playoff-caliber teams.
With Sunday's loss to the Cubs, the White Sox finished the regular season with a 14-21 record against the whopping six playoff-bound opponents they faced this year. They played 11 series against the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers and Cubs and won two of them, splitting another.
None of them finished the regular season with a better record than the A's.
The White Sox spent the entire season, during both the highs and the lows, talking about how it didn't matter which team they faced any given day. Right now, it might be ringing truer than ever. The White Sox biggest challenge isn't necessarily solving the A's, it's solving themselves. They got off the schneid with Saturday night's win. After Sunday, it felt like they were right back where they started.
And so the playoffs have to be how the White Sox have been describing them for the last week or so: completely new, completely separate from the week and a half of baseball that's come before. Players keep saying the slide doesn't even matter, pointing out that the records reset and the numbers go out the window. That's not wrong. But this is the same team.
"It has to be (a reset). There’s nothing left for us to do but go hard," manager Rick Renteria said after Sunday's game. "We have to respond. If we don’t respond, we are out. You fight all year long to finally put yourself in position for the dance. Now you have to perform. If you don’t perform, there’s no tomorrow.
"There’s no tomorrow. There’s no redemption until next year. We have to try to get as far as we possibly can."
Perhaps Monday's day off will serve the White Sox well after 17 games in 17 days. Perhaps the fresh start of the postseason will really be that.
Because like Renteria said, there's no alternative but to go home early. And a team that's recalibrated its expectations to end October with a World Series championship won't be satisfied with going home early, even if getting to this point and having the season it's had is still a pretty swell accomplishment in the eyes of the rebuild.
Pretty swell doesn't sound as great as freakin' awesome, though, does it?
If the White Sox have any hopes of feeling more awesome than swell, they need to start over. Right now. Tomorrow isn't an option because, as the manager said, it doesn't exist.