“That’s lousy managing,” La Russa said of leaving reliever Matt Foster in the game too long. “Pushed him too far. Stupid, lousy, no excuse.”
The White Sox lost ugly Wednesday, finishing their first road trip 3-4.
There was more shaky defense for a fitting end to a bad defensive road trip. There was suspect baserunning. And missed opportunities offensively afforded by 10 walks by Mariners pitchers in a 8-4 loss.
And there was lousy managing in the Mariners’ seven-run sixth inning.
The manager said so himself.
“We were in an excellent position going into the sixth inning, and the best way to explain it is I did a really lousy job managing that inning,” Tony La Russa said. “It really hurt our chances to win.”
And to sweep the Mariners heading into the home opener Thursday.
After pulling Dallas Keuchel at 93 pitches with a 4-1 lead, two runners on and no outs, La Russa left Matt Foster in to face eight hitters, grinding through 34 pitches. Nobody warmed up while Foster labored through it, unable to put a previously tame Mariners lineup away with two strikes. After five hits including a three-run double by Kyle Seager and one walk, La Russa finally called on Jose Ruiz, who got a ground ball out with his second pitch to end it.
“That’s the clearest example of why I’m upset with myself,” La Russa said. “He faced too many hitters. That’s lousy managing. Pushed him too far. Stupid, lousy, no excuse.”
Hired with a Hall of Fame pedigree at age 76 to return to managing for the first time since 2011, La Russa’s return to the dugout was heavily criticized, and viewed as questionable at the time. His calling card, though, has always been bullpen management, and to hear him calling himself out for poor management no doubt stirred his critics’ worst fears.
La Russa did go to perhaps his best or most proven relievers in the seventh and eighth, Aaron Bummer and Liam Hendriks, but by then the Sox were chasing the 8-4 deficit.
“We were really set up to pitch the last four innings of the game, we had all those innings covered,” La Russa said. “I didn’t do what I was supposed to do and we paid the price with all those extra runs. I don’t enjoy saying it, but I enjoy it less not taking responsibility.”
La Russa has said since he was hired that it would be on him to prove himself, and for that he has earned respect. And his owning it won’t hurt his standing. It would help if his team, which made two more errors — an Adam Eaton throw into the infield, his third, and a catcher’s interference on Yasmani Grandal — and made a blunder on the bases (Jose Abreu doubled off second ending a scoreless inning in which the Sox had loaded the bases) would play better for him. The bullpen, perhaps the biggest reason the Sox are a popular choice to reach the World Series, has blown three leads in seven games.
The Sox are playing without injured Eloy Jimenez, Tim Anderson, Adam Engel and Jimmy Cordero, significant losses indeed. But La Russa’s managerial acumen and decision making were supposed to ensure winnable games like Wednesday’s get won.
“Sometimes I see too much potential in this team everyday and when we don’t win, it’s a disappointment,” Keuchel said, “just because I know we’re capable of winning each and every game. But there’s a couple of other things that we just need to clean up that aren’t that big, but you let it fester, it’ll be bigger than it is.”
“Tony’s a Hall-of-Fame manager for a reason. He’s got broad shoulders, he can take some blame when he wants to. I take plenty of blame [for allowing three runs on four hits and three walks in five innings] as well. It’s not sitting real nice on me, either.”