While Jeff Samardzija and Chris Sale’s efforts were the headliners as the White Sox picked up their first two wins of the 2015 season over the weekend, they were not able to get it done alone. Given their first two chances to win games since Spring Training, the bullpen came on and slammed the door shut in support of the starters.
On both days it was Zach Duke in the eighth and closer David Robertson in the ninth, plus a scoreless seventh from Javy Guerra and Dan Jennings on Saturday.
At that point, we probably should have tipped our caps to the ‘pen, which put some early season struggles behind them and shined once finally given the opportunity (with a lead). But to their credit, the bullpen had their most impressive outing the next time the Sox took the field in Cleveland Tuesday night and really caught our attention.
In what was a somewhat sluggish game overall, the Sox took the lead early and never looked back. We will give a shoutout to Jose Quintana, who didn’t seem to have a great feel out there on the mound, but found a way to battle through six innings while only allowing one run (unearned at that) on three hits and two walks (6 K’s). But as we mentioned, it was the bullpen that stole the show.
Given a 4-1 lead thanks to Quintana and a few timely swings from the offense, the bullpen had to get nine outs to give the good guys their third win in a row.
It was southpaw Dan Jennings who got the nod in the seventh against the lefty-heavy Indians’ lineup. Though he did issue a walk, Jennings’ stuff looked very good, as he struck out two Cleveland hitters en route to a scoreless frame.
As you may recall, Jennings had a 1.34 ERA for the Miami Marlins last year (40.1 IP) and sports a 2.59 career mark. But because he struggles with control and doesn’t dominate lefties, the Marlins saw him to be expendable. So far, so good on the Sox’ end of the deal … if pitching coach Don Cooper can continue to get him to throw strikes, Jennings could really take off this year.
And from there on out, it was the same duo we’re getting used to seeing – Duke in the eighth and Robertson in the ninth.
Both struck out the side, and looked awfully dominant in doing so. Duke looks to be pretty comfortable out there against lefties and righties, which could make him the perfect eighth inning candidate all year. And with Robertson looking as flat out nasty as he does with every pitch he delivers, the other guys in the ‘pen sure do have a lot of success and energy to feed off of.
It sure is nice to have a bullpen with a specific structure to it that can actually come on and strike guys out, huh?
The ‘pen still is not quite a 100% complete unit, though. It’s great to have structure in place for the final six outs of the game, but it’ll take some time to figure out the rest of the guys. Who will be the right handed eighth inning option? Will it be Jake Petricka, or will he need some time to get a feel for things once he’s back from injury? How much can veteran Matt Albers step up? Can Jennings and Guerra last as the primary seventh inning guys? All of those questions and more still need to be answered.
Nonetheless, the only way to build a successful bullpen is from the back-end, where the White Sox look to be in good shape moving forward.
Photo Credit: Mark Duncan, AP Photo