The first eight innings of the Chicago White Sox’ Saturday matinee at Fenway Park reeked of missed opportunity.
Dylan Cease followed up his self-proclaimed best career start by hurling five strong innings, striking out eight and allowing one run despite struggling at times with his command. The bullpen did its job, as Bennett Sousa, José Ruiz and Reynaldo López amassed three shutout frames on 26 combined pitches in their starter’s wake.
Still, the White Sox entered the ninth inning trailing the Red Sox 1-0. All seven of the White Sox' hits to that point were singles. They were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and had stranded nine men on base.
But as it happened, the South Siders had a late-inning rally in their bones.
The heroes were unlikely to the casual observer. Third baseman Jake Burger led off the top of the ninth by drawing the team’s first walk of the day. Right fielder Adam Engel followed by brushing off three prior strikeouts and roping a double to left. Second baseman Leury García then lashed a sacrifice fly to score Burger from third and tie the game 1-1.
It was a remarkable display of resilience from the lineup’s bottom three hitters against Red Sox reliever Hansel Robles, who coughed up his team’s MLB-leading eighth blown save of the season.
For a moment, the rally stalled there. Tim Anderson, with a first-pitch groundout to third, and A.J. Pollock, with a roll-over to second, stranded Engel on base. That left the score knotted and set up a tense bottom half of the ninth.
But in a second inning of work López fell into then squirmed out of trouble by freezing Bobby Dalbec with a 1-2 fastball and inducing a first-pitch pop-out from Trevor Story after line drives from Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Vázquez placed runners on second and third with one out.
The result was free baseball.
In the 10th inning, the White Sox wasted no time collecting their first two hits with runners in scoring position of the game. First, José Abreu laced a double to score Pollock, the automatic runner at second base, and pull his side ahead 2-1. Luis Robert promptly rocketed a single to center, which scored Abreu and made it a 3-1 game.
That was all the cushion Liam Hendriks required. The White Sox closer slammed the door with an eight-pitch bottom half of the 10th inning, which featured groundouts from Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez. After a slow start to the season, Hendriks has now logged six straight outings without allowing a run or hit, and has made saves in each of the White Sox’ five consecutive victories.
“There were so many key moments, it was such a close game,” manager Tony La Russa told reporters. “The team was rewarded for trying so hard. It makes it extra special.”
The winning streak moves the White Sox to 5-1 in the month of May and 13-13 for the season. The hope is it’s just the start of a sustained turnaround.
“We had a really tough April. To win this kind of game gives us more hope,” Robert told reporters through team interpreter Billy Russo. “Our confidence is up. Everything is up.”