Tony La Russa returns to the playoffs with the Chicago White Sox

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CHICAGO (AP) – The last time Tony La Russa made the playoffs, he guided St. Louis to the 2011 World Series title.

La Russa retired after winning it all for the second time with the Cardinals, but he never lost his love for October.

“The urgency of the moment is fun,” he said.

That urgency returns Thursday, when La Russa and the Chicago White Sox visit the Houston Astros for Game 1 of their AL Division series. This is the first playoff clash since Chicago swept away the 2005 World Series – the last time it won a playoff round.

Yes, October hasn’t been a lot of fun for the White Sox over the years. Enter La Russa, who even has a birthday in October, turning 77 on Monday.

October is a big reason why La Russa was hired to replace Rick Renteria after Chicago was knocked out by Oakland in the first round of the 2020 playoffs. So this month will also be a big part of the assessment when it comes down to it. ‘Will act to reverse the unorthodox decision to lure La Russa out of retirement in the first place.

Of course, Chicago enjoyed their first AL Central title since 2008. But what comes next matters most to the young and talented White Sox, and they have confidence in La Russa’s steady hand.

“You don’t worry about your coaching staff letting the game pick up on them,” said wide receiver Yasmani Grandal. “He’s been there. He knows what to do. He saw a lot of different situations that can arise. … He now has the experience to be able to make a call when he needs it. “

One call that remains undecided is to choose between Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito to start Game 1 in Houston. La Russa said he would likely announce the decision on Wednesday.

He is also watching Carlos Rodón for a possible ALDS departure after the All-Star southpaw was hampered by arm issues in September.

“I had a good shot yesterday. It looked good today, ”La Russa said. “For now, still under study. It’s a good sign.

La Russa also led Chicago to the playoffs in 1983, losing to Mike Boddicker and Baltimore in the AL Championship Series. It was his only playoff appearance in his first stint as a big league manager.

He won three AL pennants and the 1989 World Series with Oakland before his successful 16-year run with St. Louis included three NL pennants and two other championships. He’s 70-58 in the playoffs for his career.

“What’s different about October is you have a lot of season-based information on your pitchers and your players,” La Russa said, “and you don’t give up on a decision because you want to give a guy a chance to get warm or maybe give him a little extra room. … There’s no such thing as the long haul (the playoffs). It’s all short. “

When La Russa examines the dugout at home in Houston, he’ll see a familiar figure in Astros manager Dusty Baker. Baker, 72, was at the end of his playing career at Oakland when La Russa took over as manager of A, and the two also saw each other a lot when Baker led the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati while La Russa was in St.. Louis.

Their relationship has been freezing at times, but they seem to be doing well now.

“I think time heals all wounds,” Baker said. “Most of the issues were the fact that I was in the same division as Tony for 10 years. We play over 15, 18 times, no matter how many times you play them in a year. So that’s a lot of games for bad emotions to kick in. “

La Russa’s return to Chicago hasn’t gone smoothly either. He had a very public disagreement with a few of his players after berating Yermín Mercedes for running a 3-0 home run in the ninth inning of a 16-4 win over Minnesota in May.

The argument was quickly ironed out and the White Sox enjoyed a comfortable lead in AL Central for much of the year. Along the way, La Russa has been praised by his players for helping the team overcome a handful of injuries to key players.

“He’s a tireless worker, always trying to find an edge to give us in order to win a game,” said Grandal. “and that’s on a daily basis. So the fact that he’s giving this example is pretty special.

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AP Sports writer Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this report.

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Jay Cohen can be contacted at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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