CHICAGO – One of the great things about the 2021 White Sox figured to be a bullpen that featured a healthy collection of young talent and veterans.
At a few times this season, they’ve lived up to that expectation, but there have been others where their performances have led to disappointment.
Sunday contest with the Royals was the perfect example of how it’s gone so far for the bullpen in what is still a very young regular season
Michael Kopech threw 2 1/3 shutout innings after Dylan Cease went 4 2/3 innings in his second start of the season. Aaron Bummer came in the eighth inning but only got one out before allowing the go-ahead run. Codi Heuer would finish off the inning clean with a strike out that was followed by Zack Collins’ throwout of Andrew Benintendi at second trying to steal.
After the White Sox took a 3-2 lead on an Adam Eaton homer in the bottom half, Liam Hendricks surrendered a leadoff tying homer in the ninth to Carlos Santana. He’d retire the side that inning, but Garrett Crochet committed an error on a force play at home in the tenth that brought home another run.
This up-and-down led to a 4-3 defeat at the hands of the Royals, the fourth time in nine games that the White Sox lost a contest while either tied or leading entering the eighth inning. It’s been a part of a start where the bullpen has allowed 18 earned runs in 39 1/3 innings of work so far this season.
After Sunday’s loss, manager Tony La Russa was quick to defend the bullpen, looking past the shortcomings in the late moments while choosing a more global look at their work.
He pointed to the fact that 12 men were left on base and the team went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position. If not for the pinch-hit homer by Eaton, the White Sox wouldn’t have even gotten to extra innings.
“I think it is a strength of our club. You can take an incident here or there where they haven’t been perfect,” said La Russa when asked about the bullpen’s struggles. “But we had a couple chances with a runner on third and we didn’t get a run. The team gets beat. The bullpen is outstanding. A real strength.”
They’ve been so at times, and so has the offense, but so far they’re still figuring things out in an up-and-down start to a much anticipated White Sox season.