Sox bullpen alters complexion of game

CHICAGO -- Preserving leads is apparently old hat for a White Sox bullpen that has moved on to rescuing games from the scrap pile.

The bullpen took over on Tuesday against the Twins in the midst of a three-run deficit. An inning later, the White Sox were leading by two runs and suddenly their preservations tactics were in demand.

When it was over, four White Sox relievers had fired 4 1/3 hitless innings as a potential defeat was transformed into the latest triumph in a five-game win streak, this one an 8-6 victory over the Twins.

Obviously the White Sox’s offense -- and the Twins’ struggles on defense -- get plenty of credit too, but the relievers altered the identity of what was starting to look like a rare shootout on the South Side.

Sergio Santos got his 28th save by pitching the ninth, while Chris Sale added two dominating innings. Even newcomer Jason Frasor pitched a scoreless inning. The victory, though, went to Will Ohman, who retired the only batter he faced after rookie starter Zach Stewart was knocked out of the game.

“I think our bullpen is one of the stronger things we have all year long, at least the most consistent,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “You talk about, in general, what they’ve been doing all year long. That’s a big part of American League baseball. You know you have a good bullpen, you always have a pretty good chance to be close to the game and win some games. A good percent of the time they do what they’re supposed to do.”

Santos has received the most chances to finish off victories, but he hears footsteps behind him.

“Everyone in our bullpen can be a closer and throw the ninth,” Santos said. “Sale’s done a great job, (Matt) Thornton, Frasor, (Jesse) Crain, Will and even (Josh) Kinney when he comes in. We feel that’s our strong point. We take pride in our bullpen, we take pride in holding leads and sustaining leads and we’re kind of going on all cylinders now.”

It didn’t start out as promising when victories were sliding away in the late innings of April. But all of that has resolved itself to the point that the White Sox can boast one of the better relief corps in the game.

“We’re playing good baseball,” Santos said. “We’re doing all the little things we need to do for guys to get into position to score and we’re bringing them in. Our bullpen and pitching are doing what we felt like we could do all season which is hold the lead and get some runs.”