The Chicago White Sox were on the wrong side of major-league history Monday when AJ Pollock’s long fly to right-center went from a potential hit to an inning- and momentum-ending triple play.
Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton made the catch at the wall for the first out of the seventh inning and fired back to the infield. Neither Adam Engel, who began the play on second base and raced to third, nor Yoán Moncada, who began the play at first, tagged up.
Third baseman Gio Urshela tagged out Moncada between second and third, then stepped on second to complete the first 8-5 triple play in major-league history.
At the time, the game was tied. The Sox went on to lose 6-3 in 10 innings.
Sox manager Tony La Russa said he reviewed the sequence “about 10 times” later that night.
Asked before Tuesday’s game if the Sox are a good fundamental team, La Russa said, “We’re a work in progress, but I see progress.”
“To be in the position that we are in,” he added, “if you take every game from the first three months into this one and you walk into that clubhouse and the guys are thinking about the next day, ready to compete, or you watch a game where you’re down for five or six innings, there ain’t no way that I’m negative about this team.
“But you’re realistic that we’re a work in progress and we’ve got to be improved. But as a staff, as a manager — unless it’s not true — I’m never going to not recognize where their heart and souls are. If you make a mistake, it’s bad managing, bad coaching. We’ll fix it. That’s why I believe in these guys, and we’ll get better bit by bit. Hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Engel told reporters Monday that “everyone did the right thing but me.”
La Russa disagreed, saying Tuesday, “Responsibility starts with the manager.”
He also noted that Buxton made an “outstanding” play.
“That’s one thing that makes you stop because the guy is out there and he and (Sox center fielder Luis) Robert, they’re like twins,” La Russa said.
Describing the actions Tuesday, Moncada said through an interpreter: “I saw the ball for a little bit and then I put my focus on the lead runner because that’s what we do. As soon as I saw him taking off, I just went after him. I didn’t see when the center fielder caught the ball.
“It’s not worth it to point fingers and who to blame. Everybody wants to do their best and keep their focus on the game.”
La Russa said the team concentrated on baserunning this spring.
“One of the things we were able to do in that shortened spring training (because of the lockout) was stress baserunning,” he said. “And (bench coach) Miguel Cairo, who was a very good baserunner, he was in charge of it. (Catcher) Seby (Zavala) had the play (getting tagged out venturing a little too far after rounding second on a hit June 27 against the Los Angeles Angels) and he almost had it again (later in the road trip).
“And the day after he had it, we had guys out at second base reading balls. So that’s what you do. You make a mistake, you figure it out, you work on it and you turn the page.”
La Russa stressed the importance of not taking away aggressiveness.
“That’s the worst thing you can do,” he said. “I’m much more upset when a guy doesn’t take the extra base because he’s sitting back on his heels. That happens more often, that’s more of a problem. When in doubt, be aggressive.
“But there’s a point where you see, I can’t get the extra base and I stop. You mix in aggressiveness with good sense. If you’re afraid to make a mistake, then you lose.”
Yasmani Grandal nears rehab, Eloy Jiménez nears return
Catcher Yasmani Grandal said he’s in line to begin a rehab assignment Wednesday with Double-A Birmingham.
Grandal said he’ll be a designated hitter for the Barons “throughout the weekend” and then go to Triple-A Charlotte, where he’ll add catching. He said the schedule is to return to the Sox “right at the start of the second half.”
Grandal has been on the injured list retroactive to June 12 with lower back spasms.
Left fielder Eloy Jiménez has been on the IL since April 24 with a torn right hamstring tendon. He suffered the injury trying to beat a throw to first base against the Twins at Target Field.
He had been rehabbing with Charlotte but was back in the Sox clubhouse Tuesday.
“Looks in good shape,” La Russa said. “He played enough down there (17 games), they say he’s ready to go. We’re different when he’s around.”
Jiménez wasn’t reinstated Tuesday, but La Russa said “yeah” when asked if Jiménez would be playing soon.
“I talked to (assistant general manager/player development) Chris Getz (on Tuesday), and he did enough in the minor leagues to play in the outfield,” La Russa said when asked how often Jiménez would play the outfield or DH. “You just go day to day. I don’t know how realistic it is to play him three straight days in the outfield. (Wednesday is) a day game, so he may be activated, might play, not sure. I’m worried about (Tuesday).
“Bottom line is he’s a very important guy to us. So whatever it takes to get him right, he’s a high priority.”