The White Sox bullpen is off to a somewhat shaky start and now Nate Jones’ health appears to be in question.
A day after they surrendered four runs, White Sox relievers yielded five more and blew a pair of late leads as the Minnesota Twins rallied for a 10-9 win on Thursday afternoon to avoid a series sweep in front of an announced crowd of 11,056 at U.S. Cellular Field.
White Sox closer Matt Lindstrom allowed two runs in the top of the ninth and the White Sox stranded the tying run at third to end a wild game played in frigid temperatures and a mostly empty stadium. The bullpen’s effort wiped out a big day from Jose Abreu and a potentially heroic moment for Marcus Semien as the White Sox rallied from an early 5-1 deficit.
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“The guys battled so hard in the cold weather,” Lindstrom said. “We put up some runs on the board, we came back when we were down, guys putting together great at-bats, playing good defense. So it feels bad kind of letting the team down in that sense.”
Lindstrom’s appearance was just an extension of what has happened the past two days. Considered to be one of the team’s strengths even after closer Addison Reed was traded, the bullpen has allowed the Twins to rally back or pull ahead four times in two days.
Lindstrom issued a one-out walk to Josh Willingham in the ninth inning Thursday and he moved into scoring position on a slow chopper to third. Trevor Plouffe then tied the game on an RBI single to right and Oswaldo Arcia followed with an RBI triple to take a 10-9 lead.
Two innings earlier, Jones was removed after he walked the first two batters he faced and both men scored to cut a three-run White Sox lead to 8-7. Afterward, Jones revealed he felt the same discomfort he did when he was sidelined for more than three weeks in spring training with a gluteal strain.
An inning later, Ronald Belisario allowed a game-tying solo home run to Josmil Pinto.
On Wednesday, Jones and Scott Downs allowed three runs without recording an out.
Still, White Sox manager Robin Ventura isn’t panicking yet, even if the White Sox could be sitting 3-0.
“It's a pretty small sample,” Ventura said. “If you look around the league, there's been a lot of stuff happening with bullpens. So I'm not going to sit here and overreact to it. Would you like it to be better? Yeah, sure. But I'm going to give credit. They battled and they're the ones that out up the runs. They had a good offensive plan today and they did well.”
The White Sox have had an impressive offensive plan of their own these first three games. Mostly it surrounds getting runners on base in front of Jose Abreu and letting him do the rest.
Trailing 5-1 in the fifth, Abreu doubled in Adam Eaton, who had a leadoff triple. Adam Dunn followed with a two-run homer, his second, to cut the lead to 5-4.
An inning later, Marcus Semien followed singles by Tyler Flowers (four hits) and Leury Garcia and a walk to Eaton with a walk of his own to push across a run and tie the score at 5. Semien had been 0-for-13 to that point to start the season.
Abreu then tripled to deep center to clear the bases and give the White Sox an 8-5 lead.
In his next plate appearance, Semien appeared to put the White Sox in line for a sweep. He also notched his first hit when he ripped a 2-2 fastball from Caleb Thielbar beyond the bullpen in left for a solo homer to put the White Sox ahead 9-8.
Alejandro De Aza also homered, his third, for the White Sox, who finished with 13 hits.
The White Sox, who have scored 21 runs, even got the tying run to third against Twins closer Glen Perkins on Thursday. The offense’s output and effort have Lindstrom impressed -- and a little down.
“We’ll battle back,” Lindstrom said. “I feel like we’re a resilient team and we played our guts out today. That’s the feeling as a closer when you don’t get the job done. That’s what really kind of hurts.”