We’ve yet to see the White Sox bullpen rolled out as it was meant to be when Kendall Graveman and Joe Kelly were signed as free agents before the season. An expensive back-end setup with Liam Hendriks as closer, Graveman and Kelly from the right side and Aaron Bummer from the left looked strong on paper. But due to injuries to all but Graveman, on paper is the only place that bullpen has been seen.
Hendriks has a right forearm flexor strain and Bummer has a lat strain. Kelly is back from his second stint on the IL but not yet able to throw on consecutive days so he was unavailable to help preserve Dylan Cease’s six-inning gem in a 7-6 win for the Sox in 12 innings against the Blue Jays Tuesday Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Sox (33-33) won it on Josh Harrison’s RBI single with two outs scoring Jose Abreu from second. The Sox are at .500 for the first time since May 29 and have defeated the Blue Jays (38-30) two straight for their sixth win in eight games.
“Just trying not to do too much,” Harrison said. “We just have to show up every day, win every series.”
Vince Velasquez pitched two innings of relief for the win.
Cease left with a 2-0 lead after allowing one hit and striking out 11. The Jays scored one in the seventh against Jimmy Lambert and three in the eighth against rookie Davis Martin and Jose Ruiz. The Sox tied it in the ninth on Luis Robert’s two-run single against Jordan Romano, the Jays took back the lead on Vladimir Guerrero’s RBI double in the 10th against Graveman and the Sox sent the game to the 11th on Danny Mendick’s RBI single. Robert’s sacrifice fly scoring Tim Anderson tied it in the 11th, Robert’s fourth RBI of night.
Using a squadron of relievers with minor league starter profiles is a precarious way to hold down one of the better lineups in baseball. But so it goes for manager Tony La Russa until Hendriks and Bummer heal and Kelly still not quite up to speed.
Martin, in an unfamiliar high leverage relief spot, walked the leadoff man in the eighth, had no play on Lourdes Gurriel’s 45-foot roller near the third base line and watched pinch hitter Cavan Biggio’s tying RBI looping single fall out of shortstop Tim Anderson’s reach in a three-run inning.
It was a tough way to see Cease’s gem go down the tubes. The Sox got two runs against righty Kevin Gausman on consecutive doubles by AJ Pollock and Adam Engel in the second and another on Robert’s RBI double in the fifth. Anderson got picked off first by catcher Alejandro Kirk one batter before Robert’s double, probably costing the Sox a run.
Every day when La Russa huddles with pitching coaches Ethan Katz and Curt Hasler to map out a pitching plan, they piece together who’s available and go from there. It’s especially tricky without Hendriks, whose absence pushes everyone up on the role-chain. It means middle relievers are asked to work higher leverage innings.
Guys like Reynaldo Lopez — who pitched two scoreless innings in the Sox’ 8-7 win over the Jays Monday — Martin and Lambert had been effective of late.
“We have a little chemistry going,” La Russa said. “There are certain guys that are not available, which means certain other guys can step up in those roles. If they step up, keep it going, if not, it makes it tougher. Guys have stepped forward.”
The Sox want to make sure the tendon connecting Bummer’s shoulder and lat is “completely intact and calm before we start ramping him up” with a throwing program, general manager Rick Hahn said. “It’s going to be a bit of a slower process probably with him.”
“We’ve had a lot of guys over there with a higher workload than they’ve had in previous years,” Hendriks said. “Some guys making their debuts, guys who have never pitched in back to back games. Doing that from the get-go it’s going to wear on you a little bit.”
With his pitch count at 101 through six, Cease would not have had enough pitches left to complete a no-hitter. He lowered his ERA to 2.68.