CHICAGO – In one clubhouse, White Sox manager Rick Renteria wore a “2020 Postseason” cap as his team celebrated its first playoff berth since 2008.
In the other clubhouse was a team trying to get to the same point, but it’s not coming easy.
Chicago pushed across two runs in the seventh inning on Thursday for a 4-3 come-from-behind victory that clinched a playoff berth, ended the season series with the Twins at 5-5 and moved the White Sox one step closer to the American League Central title. The Twins are three games back with eight games remaining.
“It was a good, tight series,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We got beat out there in this series, but there’s really nothing we can do about it. We’ve got to look forward and move on and get ready for tomorrow.”
In this case, getting ready means cooling down and tightening up some things before heading to the North Side on Friday to open a three-game series against the Cubs.
“It was a tough loss for sure because it was a game between first place and second place,” said Twins starter Kenta Maeda, who gave up two solo home runs over five innings but left with a 3-2 lead. “Each game in this series was very important. But we still do have more games left. As a team we should concentrate on our next series and hopefully get back as close as we can.”
Josh Donaldson’s sixth-inning home run gave the Twins a 3-2 edge, but he was ejected after he dragged dirt crossing home plate, the aftermath of an argument on the previous pitch over balls and strikes.
Then came a fateful seventh inning.
Byron Buxton, who hit a pair of home runs for the Twins, was waved home from first on Ryan Jeffers’ fly ball to center that was dropped by Luis Robert. But catcher Yasmani Grandal caught the ball in plenty of time to tag Buxton out.
The Twins still led, but trouble was brewing. They had a chance at a double play in the bottom of the inning when Jarrod Dyson took off for second as Nick Madrigal lined out to Max Kepler in right. A good throw would have doubled Dyson off, but Kepler’s throw was well off the bag.
Dyson ended up scoring the tying run, on a grounder to short with two outs that shortstop Jorge Polanco could have been quicker on. Jose Abreu, not known for speed, beat the throw.
“It’s just a really tough play,” Baldelli said. “We weren’t able to make it. That is frustrating. There’s no way around that, but also you look at it, is there something we could have done about it? I don’t really know.”
Eloy Jimenez doubled on Sergio Romo’s next pitch, driving in the winning run.
Donaldson managed to make a mess out of his home run in the sixth. He took two balls from Reynaldo Lopez, then objected to a strike call on the third. Baldelli tried to calm the situation by speaking with home plate umpire Dan Bellino.
Donaldson pummeled the next pitch over the left field fence for his fifth homer and a 3-2 Twins lead. But he had not let the 2-0 pitch go, and he kicked dirt on home plate as he crossed it. Bellino immediately tossed Donaldson from the game, and Donaldson promptly returned to home plate and covered it with more dirt.
His spot in the order came up in the eighth, when Ehire Adrianza struck out. Indications are that the league will review the ejection.
“We need Josh also on the field and out there playing and at third base,” Baldelli said. “That’s when we are at our best. That’s really the end of it. I think we can move past it at this point and go from there.”