The late innings were no friend to the White Sox Wednesday night.
Relievers Brian Omogrosso, Nate Jones and Donnie Veal and catcher Tyler Flowers combined to help the Boston Red Sox break open a tight game as they avoided a White Sox sweep with a 6-2 victory in front of 21,298 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Omogrosso yielded two eighth-inning runs with the help of Jones and Flowers, and Jones gave up two more in the ninth when Veal couldn’t bail him out.
The four runs gave Boston plenty of breathing room and kept the White Sox from completing their first series sweep of 2013. The White Sox (21-24) have Thursday off before they open a three-game series against the Miami Marlins.
“If you don’t get strike one it eliminates a lot of things you can do,” Flowers said. “You’re almost in a more defense-mode. It just makes it more challenging.”
The trio of relievers faced a significant number of challenges in the final two innings as the Red Sox stretch a one-run lead into a 6-1 advantage. From the eighth on, White Sox relievers threw first-pitch balls to 10 of 14 batters.
Omogrosso, who gave up a pair of singles in a scoreless seventh inning, allowed consecutive singles to David Ortiz and Mike Napoli with one out in the eighth. The right-hander then loaded the bases with a four-pitch walk before Jones entered.
Will Middlebrooks took two balls from Jones and followed with a sacrifice fly put Boston ahead 3-1.
After Jones walked Stephen Drew on four pitches to reload the bases, he yanked a first-pitch slider inside to Jarrod Saltalamacchia that Flowers couldn’t handle and Napoli scored from third on what was ruled a passed ball.
Jones -- who has issued 12 walks in 21 1/3 innings this season -- put on the first two batters he faced in the ninth and Veal, who was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the game, walked another with two outs to load the bases before Daniel Nava singled in two runs to make it 6-1.
“We need to get better in command,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “They got stuff. Nate has velocity and everything else. If you can’t control it and have confidence with it, guys can hit guys that throw hard if you don’t really have control.”
White Sox starter Hector Santiago (1-3) found cruise control after he allowed a pair of first-inning runs on Ortiz’s one-handed bloop single to left field. After a walk of Napoli, Santiago bounced back to strikeout Nava and Middlebrooks to end the threat.
From there, Santiago retired 16 of 19 batters. Although he threw 80 pitches on Saturday and 40 more in a Tuesday bullpen, Santiago kept the White Sox in the game roughly 24 hours after he learned he’d pitch in the place of Chris Sale, who was scratched with shoulder tendonitis.
Santiago limited Boston to three hits and he walked four while striking out nine over six innings.
“I kind of had Coop and I'm sure Robin saying ‘Hey, we have to get our bullpen going early,’ ” Santiago said. “But after that first inning I just kind of settled down.”
Buchholz (7-0) was just a tad better as he continued red-hot stretch to start the season.
He pitched around three base runners in the first inning with a strikeout of Adam Dunn and got Paul Konerko -- who hit his first home run since April 28 in the ninth -- to line out to left field. Buchholz allowed a run in third on an RBI groundout by Alex Rios, who later extended his hitting streak to 17.
But Buchholz retired 12 of the last 15 he faced to keep Boston in front.