White Sox lose in 10, Tony La Russa backs MLB extra-inning rule

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Vinnie Duber
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La Russa backs extra-inning rule after Sox lose in 10 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Baseball's new extra-inning rule debuted last season, so continuing to call it "new" might not be entirely accurate.

But in a game that's been played mostly the same way for a century and a half, new is relative. So teams getting an automatic runner on second base to start extra innings is still taking some getting used to.

It's certainly new for Tony La Russa, who prior to the beginning of the month hadn't managed a regular-season major league game in nearly a decade. The White Sox skipper, back in the same 1983 uniforms he wore before they were throwbacks, got his first taste of that extra-inning rule Sunday afternoon.

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And though his team lost in 10 innings, La Russa objectively saw the logic in a rule that's rankling many a baseball fan.

"I'm in favor of the rule," La Russa said. "Just watching the prolonged extra innings, it just beats up your staff, your farm system, just disorganizes everything, especially now that there's limited minor leagues. I'm in favor of it."

Sunday, the White Sox had plenty of problems other than just starting the 10th inning with a runner on second base.

Liam Hendriks, the team's $54 million closer, gave up his second home run in three appearances this season, this one a game-tying shot off Carlos Santana's bat that went down as a blown save. White Sox hitters drew nine walks, with only one runner who reached via a free pass scoring. All in all, they were 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left 12 men on base.

That all loomed larger than what happened in the 10th. But that is where the game was decided, casting focus back on that automatic runner on second.

Garrett Crochet was called on after Hendriks blew the save in the ninth. The Royals instantly bunted their free runner over to third, spurring an intentional walk to set up a potential inning-ending double play. Instead, Andrew Bentintendi laid down another immediate bunt, the ball heading right back to Crochet, who had a play at the plate but spiked the throw home, allowing the go-ahead run to score unchallenged.

The White Sox, of course, had their own crack at getting a free runner across the plate in the bottom of the inning. But Nick Williams went nowhere as Adam Eaton and Zack Collins struck out and Nick Madrigal grounded out to end the game.

Considering everything else that did and didn't happen, it's hard to say the White Sox lost because of the extra-inning rule. But it's simultaneously easy to understand why fans felt stung after the game.

The rule remains a divisive one. The idea is to prevent the kinds of dragging games that eat up a team's pitching staff in a sport that's played every day. And if that is the goal, it worked to perfection Sunday on the South Side. The White Sox won't have to make the kind of move that used to be commonplace, swapping someone on the roster with a minor league pitcher just to have an available arm in the bullpen.

But it also makes life a heck of a lot harder for the pitchers and creates a chaotic situation in which, as we saw Sunday, a team doesn't even really have to do anything to turn a tie into a win. The Royals didn't get a hit or draw their own walk in the 10th inning.

"I guess you have to look at like you gave up a leadoff double. That’s your guy, and you have to make sure he stays out there," White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech said after the game. "With that being said, it’s not always that easy. You have thrown zero pitches, and you have a runner in scoring position.

"We are all still getting used to a little bit, but I think as far as the pitcher standpoint, the job doesn’t really change."

As baseball seeks a way to shrink endless games and create more action on the diamond, it doesn't seem like the extra-inning rule is going anywhere. Heck, even with it, the White Sox and Royals tussled for three hours and 54 minutes, taking a Sunday afternoon contest into Sunday evening.

It will have its backers, especially those who understand how extra-inning marathons can shred a staff. And it will have its detractors, especially those who want to see a victory earned.

The White Sox didn't lose solely because of this rule Sunday. But it sure didn't help.

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