BOSTON — The White Sox couldn’t hold two leads and couldn’t come through with the bases loaded twice late in the game, but head back to Chicago looking at the positives from taking three of four games from the Boston Red Sox.
Xander Bogaerts’ walk-off single off Matt Purke dealt the White Sox an 8-7 loss in Thursday afternoon’s series finale at Fenway Park, ending a four hour, 25 minute slog. The bigger-picture view of things was full of optimism, though, for a team that hasn’t had many reasons to take a glass-half-full approach over the last few weeks.
“The quality of baseball we played this series was probably the best baseball we played all year, including the nice start that we had,” catcher Alex Avila, who had four hits Thursday, said. “We played well with the lead, we played well when we were behind. (We) made some big pitches when we had to, got some big time hits when we needed to, which is something that’s been lacking past few weeks.”
A narrow view of Thursday’s game, though, has a more frustrating tone. The White Sox squandered a 4-1 lead, got it back on Jose Abreu’s go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the seventh, then gave that two-run advantage back in bottom of the seventh and eighth innings.
The White Sox loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the eighth but failed to score when J.B Shuck flied out to left (it wasn’t deep enough for Brett Lawrie to be sent home, even with natural third baseman Travis Shaw having to play left field), Tim Anderson struck out and Adam Eaton grounded out.
The same scenario played out in the top of the 10th, with Lawrie, Avila and Avisail Garcia again loading the bases but Shuck (popout), Anderson (strikeout) and Eaton (strikeout) failing to plate the go-ahead run against Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel.
Bogaerts delivered his walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th.
“We won three out of four — you look at it that way,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You could look at a lot of things negatively, but the way it’s been going for us, you win a series and get ready for tomorrow.”
The White Sox pulled off an impressive bases-loaded escape on Monday and won in extra innings, then cruised to a victory behind Chris Sale on Tuesday. Wednesday saw Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie blast home runs in a rare spate of run support for Jose Quintana in a comeback win. And while the final three innings Thursday were certainly disappointing, starter James Shields exited the game with a lead and Abreu momentarily picked up for a strung-out bullpen in the seventh.
“This was a good series,” Shields said. “We got swept in Cleveland, coming in here to Boston, one of the best hitting teams in the league and to do what we did three out of four is pretty good.”
Where Avila saw the greatest benefit to this series — outside of winning three games in a row for the first time since early May, of course — was getting some high-leverage experience for a handful of players. Michael Ynoa held on to a one-run lead in the eighth inning Wednesday, while Chris Beck — with an assist from a strange decision to bunt by Jackie Bradley Jr. — limited the Red Sox damage to just one run in a shaky seventh inning Thursday.
Whether the experience of this series pays off as the White Sox look to remain within striking distance for the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2008 remains to be seen. But for a team starved of positive morsels since early May, there was plenty to like about these four days in Boston.
“We need to graduate a little bit because we’re going to need everybody,” Avila said. “But overall we had a really good series, played really good baseball. It just shows you how tough it is to beat a team four days in a row.”