Dane Dunning got the start for the all-important Game 3 on Thursday afternoon.
He got to throw 15 pitches to four batters. That’s it.
Rick Renteria brought the quick hook out for his starting pitcher, perhaps a surprise for White Sox fans who haven’t seen their team in the playoffs in a dozen years. Postseason baseball’s changed a good deal since then, and starting pitchers have shorter leashes than ever.
It was expected that we’d see an awful lot of arms parading out of the South Side bullpen in a win-or-go-home contest with the season on the line. The White Sox have a pair of elite starting pitchers in Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, but it was a mystery how the team would approach Game 3 after Dunning, Dylan Cease and Reynaldo López all failed to impress during their auditions during the final weekend of the regular season.
The White Sox had the option to start one of the pitchers from their stellar bullpen as an opener. But they decided to call on Dunning, a traditional starter. Though the plan might have been a hybrid: start a traditional starter but use him in a non-traditional fashion, with that army of relievers at the ready.
"I think whoever would have been the individual that started this game," Renteria said before the game, "we all know the importance of it and anyone of them could either run long or run short based on where we're at."
And that’s exactly what happened.
Dunning gave up a leadoff single to Tommy La Stella — the same A’s hitter who ended Lucas Giolito’s perfect-game bid in Game 1 — and after two pop ups, he gave up another base hit to Mark Canha, putting runners at the corners with two outs. And Renteria had seen enough, opting to try to keep the A’s off the board in a game where every pitch was critical.
It proved an effective move. Renteria brought on Garrett Crochet, the fireballing rookie with just five major league appearances under his belt, and Crochet struck out Matt Olson to end the A’s first-inning threat.
It might have struck as a quick hook, but this is how the playoffs go, especially with an impressive but unproven pitcher in Dunning on the hill. The White Sox have an excellent bullpen and can certainly cover nine innings — or 8.1 innings, in this case — with a group of great relievers.
And that’s the way Renteria will approach the rest of the high-stakes Game 3.